What can advertising learn from branding?

Traditionally it has been said that branding starts where the advertising finishes; that somehow branding and advertising are different things. Often, with this mindset, the nearest the ad agency would get to thinking about branding, is placing the client’s logo in the bottom right hand corner of the ad.

The thinking was that it was the product that was important and it was the ad agency’s job to work out what it was about the product that was better than the competitions product and find a memorable way to communicate USP. The branding was just there to make sure the product stood out on the shelf. This has been the way ad agencies have operated for pretty much as long as anyone can remember.

Of course brand agencies have always argued that this way of looking at things was back-to-front! (more…)

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Recogntion Illustrations-04_890px

Recognition driving business success

There can be few more effective ways to engage employees than through recognition of their effort, endeavour, achievement and success. Recognition programmes have the ability to make people feel good, improve relationships internally and create a thank you culture. But there is more to Recognition programmes than a ‘nice to have’ engagement initiative. (more…)


Soaring ahead of time…

Occasionally, someone designs something that is so ground-breaking, so leftfield, so far ahead of it’s time, that it is misunderstood, ridiculed or even discarded before it’s given a chance to shine. This is true in every creative discipline; in architecture, fashion, art, product design, the performing arts, music, car design, hair styling, cake decorating… and it’s true in branding.

Twenty years ago when British Airways made the undoubtedly audacious decision to move away from their quintessentially British tailfins to a series of striking, but seemingly unconnected ethnic patterns, reactions were polarised. (more…)


The World of Charles and Ray Eames

A last minute visit to The World of Charles and Ray Eames exhibition at the Barbican was well worth the visit.

Everyone knows Charles and Ray Eames for their instantly recognisable plywood chairs and their “least money” approach to design, but this show highlights how multidisciplinary their appraoch was. For example it includes , a scale installation of Think – the multi-screen film presentation shown in the IBM Pavilion at New York’s 1964-65 World Fair and a set of Ray’s covers for Art and Architecture.

The show ends on Sunday, well worth a visit this weekend.



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Trends for 2016

1. It’s all about the experience

Yes, we’ve been talking about it for a while now, but 2016 is surely set to be the year that marketing departments start to move from silos of advertising, online comms, high street retail, towards joined up experiences that are part of the sales cycle and an extension of customer service. The term omnichannel may be a buzzword, but it marks a real shift: customers expect brands to provide an integrated experience, regardless of device or channel. Of course, brand identities that transition beautifully between the physical and digital worlds to achieve this are vital. (more…)

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Saluting the Tour de Playgroup

So the Tour de Playgroup, our annual charity bike ride, is over for another year and we’re already missing the banter in the studio. This year, as last, there were no sprint finishes, no chasing peloton, no fanfares or winners medals, just three very tired looking guys coasting wearily to a halt near Brighton Pier. (more…)

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Pedal power

Sometimes in life something demands that you sit up and pay attention. For me it was going with my wife to our local hospital and being told that she had a tumour, most likely cancerous. It was 29th January this year, she was 34.


Tour de Playgroup 2015

Tour de Playgroup 2015: London to Brighton

Now that Froomey has pedalled his way to another success on the Champs-Élysées it’s time to look forward to the other great cycling event of the year, The Tour de Playgroup 2015. On the 18th September a group of us will be dusting off our old pushbikes, struggling into lycra and heading off on the 70+ miles (not forgetting 1,391 vertical meters) between Playgroup Towers and Brighton Pier.

Inspired by Nairo Quintana’s staggering attack up the Alpe d’Huez on Saturday’s penultimate stage, we’ll be hauling our sore backsides up East Sussex’s notorious Ditchling Beacon, famously used as the hill climb on the UK stage of the 1994 Tour de France. Hopefully we won’t have to get off and push – in fact, we’re determined not to. (more…)

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Craft Beer

The real deal

It’s easy to see the recent growth of “authentic” brands as a reaction against globalisation. The idea that in Mexico, Tokyo and London people are all eating the same breakfast cereal, using the same deodorant and eating the same burgers seems somehow to be bland and uninteresting. It goes against our sense of individuality. (more…)

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The book of Comms 10:1

From cascade to conversation

Employee communications were traditionally built around a simple belief that senior leadership knew more about everything than their employees. Internal communication strategies were built around this concept aimed at finding ways to get information from leader’s heads into the hands, hearts and minds of all employees. Cascading messages through layers of management to ensure that employees all got the same message, in the same manner, at the same time. This top down approach focused upon monologue rather than actively encouraging participation, discussion and dialogue. For many years this one size fits all approach was based upon traditional employee communication channels such as town hall meetings, newsletters, emails, magazines and bulletin boards. (more…)

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Granary Square Kings Cross

Creating a sense of place

Great placemaking is about understanding and defining what makes a place unique, developing a promise and authentic vision, then applying that through the physical environment, the branding and the marketing. Curation is key to bringing the right mix of retailers, businesses, cultural events and public art into an area.

King’s Cross is a great example of what can be achieved in transforming and rejuvenating a neglected area. Once an important Victorian industrial heartland, it had, by the 1970’s, become a post-industrial wasteland with a notoriously poor reputation. Lack of investment in the infrastructure, in business, retail and residential properties had created the perfect breeding ground for antisocial behaviour. (more…)

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Bling watch

Have Apple reinvented luxury marketing?

The Apple Watch went on sale today and while many in the tech industry have been wondering if Apple have once again created a new tech market – doing for the smart watch what they did for digital music players in 2001 – from a marketing perspective it’s perhaps more interesting to consider what effect they will have on luxury marketing. (more…)

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Content is king

Content is king

People say Seth Godin is the Godfather of content marketing, but way back in 1996 Bill Gates wrote a now – mostly – forgotten blog post called “Content is King”.

It’s worth remembering that this was two years before the term blog was ever used, nine years before YouTube and eleven years before, Tumblr and WordPress. The Internet was a different place back then. Fast forward nineteen years: Blogs are ubiquitous, content is everywhere and everyone seems to have agreed with Seth Godin’s famous quote “Content Marketing is the only marketing left”. The thing is, too many of us seem to have forgotten what Gates had to say all those years ago. (more…)

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No more white walls please!

In fact, no more walls at all, thanks… not how we currently know them at least.

It really is the end of those narrow corridors, identical desks and chairs in their hundreds in dull, uninspiring spaces with low ceilings and lights that turn you into a zombie by midday. Goodbye to those rigid, so called ‘formal’ meeting rooms, tiny kitchens and limited social spaces.


Trends for 2015

Trends for 2015

It’s that time of the year again. Time to look ahead and see what the immediate future looks like for the world’s top brands.


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Getting animated in 2014

The past 12 months have been full of firsts for Playgroup, and one of these ‘firsts’ that really really stands out for me — not least because I’ve found myself saying this word about 50 times a day for the past few months — is animation.

At Playgroup we have managed and delivered many extremely successful, engaging and well received animations and videos for clients in previous years, so animation in and of itself is not new for us. What is new however, is that rather than working alongside various talented freelancers and external studios to handle the end-production as we have in the past, we made the decision to change things up and bring it all under our own roof. (more…)

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Tour de Playgroup: Poster 2

To commemorate our charity bike ride in aid of Tommy’s we have designed a set of posters to represent our intrepid journey from our office here in London to our office on the south coast.

This is the second of our series and we will be releasing one every day until Wednesday 17 September. Check out yesterdays poster here.


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Tour de Playgroup: Poster 1

To commemorate our charity bike ride in aid of Tommy’s we have designed a set of posters to represent our intrepid journey from our office here in London to our office on the south coast.

We will be releasing one every day, from now until Wednesday 17 September. (more…)

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Blood, sweat and gears

So the Tour de Playgroup is less than five weeks away and I thought I would give a brief update on our training and perhaps just a few thoughts on why the challenge is so important to me. I think it’s safe to say that some of us are taking training more seriously than others – I am most definitely one of the ‘others’. Kudos to Paul for getting out in his lycra come rain or shine. (more…)

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Tour de Playgroup

So the Tour de France 2014 is over; from the grandest of Grand Départs in le Yorkshire, to the frankly bonkersness of the Hautacam climb, this year’s Tour has been compulsive viewing and has captured the British imagination like never before. Of course; after Wiggins didn’t start, Froome crashed out on stage five and Alberto Contador broke his leg on Col du Platzerwasel, Vincenzo Nibail’s dominance has been inspiring to watch, but if you can feel the withdrawal systems kicking in already, fear not, because the Tour de Playgroup is less than eight weeks away. (more…)

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Work Experience at Playgroup

My week had started out by staring at the greenery and trees turn into skyscrapers, on the train. I’m born and bred in East Devon (much to my dismay as a teenager) so London was going to be a different style of living for me. The thoughts running through my head were ones of worry and excitement; the UK’s capital is one of my favorite cities so I couldn’t wait to be commuting in it. But, sitting on that train I was asking myself if maybe 15 was too young for what I had set out to do? Was it a too bigger jump from my sleepy village? (more…)

Digital Revolution Installation At The Barbican Centre

Digital Revolution

It’s a digital revolution at the Barbican and we went along and had a look. Digital has come a long way since young Matt designed his first graphics with a Mac Colour classic 25 years ago. We now have lasers left right and centre, movement tracking cameras, 3D projection mapping, the world wide web, fibre broadband and phones that would have been capable of launching a man to the Moon in the late 60′s to name a few. (more…)