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The Science Behind the Wonder

During the course of my career, I have heard marketing departments and agencies referred to as ‘the colouring in department’. Whilst this is mostly said in jest, sometimes it does make you stop & wonder if this is all marketing really is. Is this ever-growing, constantly evolving sector dependent on people’s gut feel & on-the-job experience, or is there more science to building brands?

In our line of marketing, we build our strategies and campaigns with ‘the consumer’ at the heart. This is not ground breaking of course, but it’s always good to remind yourself that ‘the consumer’ is a human too – making conscious & unconscious decisions, driven by emotions and past experiences. So, time for me to get my science hat on and explore how the brain processes & understands brands and marketing activity.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that consumer behaviour is formed in two ways: functional & neuropsychological goals. Functional goals really take things literally: you buy a drink to quench your thirst, for example. Neuropsychological goals are driven by your emotions towards that drink: do you like the flavour, what health benefits does it offer etc. etc.? To develop successful brand communications, both of these goals must be met, but it can be very much argued that the neuropsychological goal is the one that opens the door for a wild success.

The way to achieve a functional goal is simple – communicate to consumers what your brand is, and what it does. Nevertheless, whilst this is a seemingly obvious point, there are other aspects of this to consider; for example, studies have shown that consumers are able to make a shopping decision in 0.3 seconds, purely based on a brand’s distinctive assets. These distinctive assets cover everything from colour, bottle shape to brand mark – things always at the front of a marketer’s mind when developing packaging. These have become so deeply engrained in consumers’ minds, that there’s even a board game based on well-known logos – from which I emerged victorious one family Christmas. However, whilst I was humbly celebrating my glory, I felt a slightly unnerving reality settle over me – I’ve been so overloaded with brands over the years that I slammed the other team to a rather shameful defeat (so maybe not so humble in the victory). This realisation brings me on to my next point: whilst we all may recognise a brand through its distinctive assets & as such understand its function, we all have associations with this brand – and this is the main factor in purchase decisions – our neuropsychological goal.

Throughout my experience in various aspects of marketing, I have heard different terminology relating to neuropsychological goals, but nothing quite as scientific; terms such as ‘winning the hearts and minds’, ‘building brand loyalty’, ‘delivering authenticity’ and so on and so forth. The scientific term encompasses all of these, neatly wrapping it up in one little box: if people only shopped to achieve their functional goals, there would be only one brand of whisky for example. However, consumers need more from their brands – something that will make their task easier, their party better, their drink healthier…and this is where emotions come in to play. Research has demonstrated that consumers primarily use their emotions to make purchase decisions. Whilst our brains respond to visual stimuli almost instantaneously, stories build our emotional connections to brands and remain in our subconscious for a longer period of time. This is why, in terms of reaching neuropsychological goals, it is vital for a brand to identify their consumers’ emotional drivers and build a narrative around this. It is equally as important to understand that these must differ across your range of brands – each product or brand must build its own narrative based off of its own attributes and consumer. The perfect example here is Coca Cola; a brand that successfully sold two essentially identical products (Diet Coke and Coke Zero) to different consumer groups by tapping into their emotional drivers.

So what I have learnt in the process of researching this insight piece? Most importantly, that whilst the ‘Moment of Wonder’ as we Wonderworkers like to call it, may be seen as marketing fluff by clients or people we don’t work directly with, it is actually scientifically proven! Never have I understood our proposition more than now, with the clarity of the defined link between emotions and brand worlds to help us achieve the ‘Woo-Hoo’ with all of our clients.

Now of course I didn't just know all of this stuff - I had to do a little bit of research. The links to the sources are below (and are very interesting reads!):

 

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The Importance of an Emotional Connection

Over the last week, I’ve been looking into consumers’ need for an emotional connection to the brands they buy. For example, I will ALWAYS buy the same brand of makeup – not because of the price point (I almost have a panic attack every time I run out, as it’s an investment to say the least), but because I remember the first time I used products from their brand fondly. It was the first time I felt that makeup had made a proper difference to my face & I have fantastic memories of that evening as a result.

The ‘emotional connection’ a consumer has with a brand is what we call the brand experience. This is vital to customer loyalty and ‘the strongest brands are those who think “holistically” about the experience they offer, ranging from the emotional effect they deliver to the sense of social identity they create among customers’*. So, what does this actually mean for us marketers?

Well, first and foremost we need to keep consumer needs at the heart of everything we do. By understanding what consumers are looking for, both from a brand and an experience, we can build a strategy that will forge emotional connections at every part of the consumer journey.

Take, for example, our work on the Britvic Mixers Relaunch. Whilst, in the most basic view, this could be seen as a simple brand repositioning project, we worked closely with our client to develop a campaign that was built on the foundation of consumers’ understanding of the brand as a staple of pubs and British culture. Using this knowledge, we applied the ethos of bringing people together across the consumer journey and built in tactics consistent with the brand identity across all touchpoints.

A message as straightforward as ‘Lifting Spirits’ became the cornerstone of our campaign – not only acting as our call to action, but also acting as a springboard for the Lifting Spirits Foundation, where consumers can give back to local causes by buying a drink in their local pub.

It is vital that a brand matches the emotive needs of their consumer with the emotion their brand represents, rather than forcing this on them. This can only lead to a disingenuous relationship between brand and consumer, and one retro-fitted tactic can make a campaign nosedive in its consumers’ experience of it.

For a brand to successfully deliver on the emotional experience their consumer has, they must own it. I don’t mean magic it out of thin air to match KPIs or aims for the brand, but understand your brand. Step into the shoes of your consumer and see your brand through their eyes. Only then can you really develop a meaningful campaign to bring brand experience to your consumers, and once this is nailed, the tactics will all fall into place.

Sources & other interesting reads:

Marketing Week

TNS Global

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The growth of the experience economy

I’ve been looking into the growth of the experience economy, something which has blown up with the help of millennials over the last few years. My research into this led me to some really interesting articles on Forbes, Huffington Post, Marketing Magazine and Marketing Week, covering everything from pop ups to Pepsi Emojis. As always links to these can be found below…

Studies done by PWC show that millennials are building an ‘experience economy’ – seeing as it’s no longer difficult to own items, there has been a shift towards spending on experiences. 52% of 18-34 year olds spend on experiences, against 39% of older consumers* – a broad divide. Whilst this could be put down to social media bragging rights, it appears that these occasions are more so used for sharing experiences with friends and peers – they enjoy having the ability to create memories whilst engaging with those around them.

These experience-hunters see more than just the product or brand, but rather what the brand stands for. They use the brand to help define who they are and what they stand for, sharing this both with friends and in the online world of social media. As a result, the authenticity of a brand’s offering is paramount – the product on its own means very little to this group, as marketers, we should be focusing on the end-to-end experience of the product. 72% of millennials plan to increase their spending on experiences to provide a lasting impression and connect with brands and their peers* – why shouldn’t we as marketers seize this opportunity to build brand loyalists?

In light of this new perspective there is even more of a need for an end-to-end strategy for brands. In order to deliver a genuine product experience, the entire customer journey must be intricately planned to ensure that each and every touchpoint is aligned with the overarching strategy. Whilst this process is rather strenuous, by sticking to it, we can ensure involvement and brand understanding from this emerging group who are looking for ‘return on involvement’ over return on investment.

The rise of FOMO (fear of missing out) and the search for return on involvement have led to an interesting time for marketers striving to fulfil these consumer needs. These new phenomena open a lot of doors in terms of experiential marketing, a term which in recent years has come to mean one of two things: an event or a pop up. However, we must understand that experiential is broader than these two tactics and seize the opportunity to engage with consumers who want to be engaged at every opportunity possible.

By understanding the value of brand truths to customers, and identifying consumer needs (in this case an experience) brands and products can achieve what we call the Moment of Wonder.

Sources:

* Forbes

Other sources for further reading:

Huffington Post

Marketing Mag

Marketing Week

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Bring on the Pop Ups!

Spring is here, the sun is out (mostly), and for us Londoners that means one very important thing – the season of pop ups is upon us!

We made quick work of booking our first outing of the season: Smith & Sinclair’s Edible Perfume Rooms (in association with Tanqueray Gin). Tickets for this event were selling out quicker-than-hotcakes-fast, so unfortunately, we couldn’t get a table at their bar, but we did manage to swipe a couple of tickets to their Edible Perfume Workshop. My colleague Ivo and I were quite excited about this one; while Ivo expected to be able to try cocktails & food infused with actual perfume (very intriguing), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – but cocktails were definitely on the list! The set up was lovely – a venue I’ve actually walked past many times – a little shop just off of Carnaby Street. This led to a really simple, intimate venue – but maybe a little too simple. I was expecting to have a full hands-on workshop experience, so when we were shown to our places at the back of the shop, I was a little baffled. For something that we were expecting to be quite a premium experience, the materials we were using for the workshop weren’t that premium (apart from the edible perfume paper. That was fab.)

The workshop itself was really well thought through – the right balance of education and interactivity. The only drawback was that, seeing as the group was so small (just 6 of us) and we were quite obviously on a schedule, those of us thirsty for more knowledge (like Ivo) weren’t exactly put at ease to ask. Actually, another drawback – those of us thirsty for actual cocktails (like myself) didn’t get any!

We created our own perfumes, using an alcohol base (rum for me, amaretto for Ivo) and adding essences of herbal, earthy, fruity or citrus flavours drop by drop. Without even considering it, I managed to make a perfume more suited to men than to myself…a combination of rum, coconut and acorn does not a feminine scent make! However, it does taste delicious. We were encouraged to use our perfumes as a garnish on cocktails, to spray onto cakes as a final touch, or to enhance the serve experience.

This was a really enjoyable experience for us to take part in – and adds another level of imagination sense-experimentation, something that we have developed before for The Glenlivet and Teisseire. It’s quite difficult to find something in London that you haven’t seen before, and that impresses you, but the Edible Perfume Rooms definitely did that! With some refinements, this event will really knock your socks off.

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House of Peroni

The hotly anticipated return of The House of Peroni to London took place with a 4 day pop-up in Wardour Street, Soho, from 15th - 18th March, and we were lucky to get our hands on a couple of tickets! The concept of this pop up was to celebrate the quality of craftsmanship that is so inherent to the Italian way of life; The House of Peroni gave guests the chance to experience art in 3D with Tilt Brush by Google, all within the backdrop of a vibrant Peroni Nastro Azzurro bar.

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As with previous House of Peroni events, the pop up focused on quality food and drink, featuring a bar with award winning ‘Master of Mixology’ Simone Caporale, food by chef Francesco Mazzei’s Calabrian, the ‘Master of Taste’. There was also a special art exhibition featuring three Italian virtual reality artists. The entry ticket entitled us to one free drink each, as well as access to a more secluded area with loads of comfy seating.

The drinks menu featured twists on classic Italian cocktail recipes made with Peroni. Their take on the Negroni, the classic Italian aperitif, was served with Peroni beer and finished with traditional bitters – a really nice combination. A classic Bellini was modified to contain the Italian beer as well. The Peroni Peony offered a fragrant take on the traditional Bellini, with crisp white peach, grape, peony and magnolia flowers.

Continuing the traditional Italian theme, with modern twists was the antipasti platter. This featured on some of Italy’s finest meats – nduja mixed with ricotta and chives, salami and cured smoked duck with beetroot puree, all accompanied by a range of Italian breads and a selection of cheeses. 

The most exciting & standout part of this pop up was the virtual reality experience, where we were invited to create our own 3D artwork. The session started with one of the artists giving a demonstration on how to use the technology and then we were set loose to experiment and explore our own artistic talent. We were also given the opportunity talk to the Italian digital artists whose work was being displayed to get their views on future of art, interactivity and VR.

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Before we left, we received a signed print from one of the artists and a digital keepsake of our own artwork to share on social media.

The verdict:

As expected, the event was packed, and people clearly enjoyed it. However, the clash of the ‘heritage’ element and the ‘futuristic’ art creation experience did not always make sense. While Peroni definitely achieved their goal in making guests experience their Italian heritage through food & drink (even down to the bartenders’ outfits) with a modern twist, the room setup and the virtual reality activity were almost too futuristic, and left us wondering how they fit into the Peroni brand world.

Definitely an experience to be had though – keep your eyes peeled for the next House of Peroni pop up – we will be!

 

 

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How to bring marketing into 2017 – go back to basics

I can’t believe that it’s almost April. Just putting it out there! The first quarter of 2017 has passed, and we’ve seen some very interesting progressions here at Wonderworks – a lot of which made me think of writing this insight piece. We’ve been involved in a lot of strategy work recently, and it seems that our clients are returning to the ‘old fashioned’ style of marketing, despite the fact that the fast evolution of the world of communications has impacted strategy’s importance in marketing, and downplayed it in favour of a tactical approach in the last few years.

In light of this viewpoint, I took the time to look into the thoughts and opinions on others who work in the industry. Articles on Marketing Week & Forbes appear to validate this approach of supporting the overarching strategy with tactics (see the links at the bottom of the page to read the articles)

As marketers, we should not lose focus of the strategy, from the moment we define the challenge in the brief, through to the execution of the activation. This consistent strategy will lead to consistency in messaging across all touch points, building the consumer’s relationship with the brand. Whilst the limitations on how we communicate have been lifted in recent years, the strategy is still the same – to communicate with consumers. It’s just that now there are more tactics available to us.…or more aptly put:

“There’s no such thing as traditional or new media, just as there’s no such thing as traditional or social media marketing. All there is media and marketing, and both have always been and always will be in a constant state of tactical evolvement.” *

However, the evolvement of marketing tactics is not a negative thing – it means we have more choice as marketers of how to portray our brand – yet there needs to be a strategy underneath these, rationalising why they are being employed.

Any brand strategy should distil the brand’s essence, whether it be for a week-long activation or a five-year campaign, and with such a wealth of tactics available to us, from the pop-up to the Snapchat filter, there is an endless supply of tactics that scream the brand personality. In a world where authenticity makes up a large part of brand loyalty, it is crucial to create and maintain a strong strategy from the outset, supported by a range of fitting tactics.

Developing a strong marketing strategy takes time and effort to understand the consumer and the market, and this shines through in its implementation. Whilst many marketers have been swept up in the whirlwind of tactical development over the last few years, what pays off the best is the consumers’ belief that they are at the heart of a strategy – developed for them, fulfilling a need that they have. How this shakes out in the tactical implementation should be a natural development, and so should feel genuine.

The move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing will also enhance the importance of strategical thinking for brands – discovering the USPs of the brands, and unlocking the potential to build their personalities further than previously possible. Whilst a tactical approach provides short term wins for a brand, a strategical approach can build an indefinite timeline to build a genuine following, and brand loyalists with a considered method. 

In short, in the face of a constantly evolving realm of marketing tools, we need to go back to basics by putting strategy at the heart of everything we do. A brand execution is great when nobody needs to ask why it is relevant – it simply clicks.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikalbelicove/2013/09/27/understanding-goals-strategies-objectives-and-tactics-in-the-age-of-social/

For more interesting reads, follow the links below:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikalbelicove/2013/09/27/understanding-goals-strategies-objectives-and-tactics-in-the-age-of-social/#522c95ca658e

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2013/04/16/4-principles-of-marketing-strategy-in-the-digital-age/

https://www.marketingweek.com/2016/05/11/mark-ritson-beware-the-tactification-of-marketing/

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Getting Personal with The Blends' Room

One of the things I love about working a stone’s throw from Soho, is the fact that you never know what the next pop up shop will be. This time I was well and truly (pleasantly!) surprised by Garnier’s announcement of The Blends’ Room – a pop up dedicated to their range of Ultimate Blends. So, of course, I had to go and see it today!

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Now, beauty pop ups definitely are not an uncommon feature, however I was surprised that a large FMCG brand would opt for a set up that is predominantly prevalent in our beloved sector of premium lifestyle, drinks & spirits. Yet, when I arrived at The Blends’ Room in the heart of Soho, it all made sense. Not only was the venue beautifully curated as one would expect within the beauty world, this curation brought the whole concept together. Cage-like statues, created bespoke for the event, showcased the individual products in the range through scents and live samples of their main ingredients. With products on shelves around the room, video installations highlighted their different ‘personalities’. I was incredibly impressed by the use of scents and sensory immersion, something I have only really experienced within more premium product activations, but they also felt innately authentic to this mainstream brand.

After wandering around taking in the different installations, I was greeted and guided to the best shampoo for my hair from the range to take as a sample, whose bottle I then had the chance to personalise with my name. This personal interaction and expertise made me further understand the value of this pop up – it really does provide a full, authentic brand experience, which is so sought after both by brands and consumers alike.

The whole pop up is supported by a braids bar (big shout out to the stylist who managed to get a braid in my short, rather unkempt hair!), a GIF booth which links to social and allows the chance to win free Garnier Ultimate Blends for a year, and most importantly (in my opinion) a range of wellbeing talks and classes. These supporting events (ticketed, but free of charge) add a level of legitimacy to the brand experience – from a talk by Hilary Rowland, Founder of Boom Cycle, to participating in a Beyoncé Barre class (gutted I missed out on that one!) Garnier have listened to their key audience and understood what drives them, and how to reach them. Canny media placements this week in London press, and a savvy social activation have helped tapped into the busy London Millennial’s social diary….

Overall, I was overly impressed by the entire experience, and can see this being a ground breaking event for the category – I’m intrigued to see what is to come next!

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Hey Seoul Sister

Cast your minds back to 2016 – it already feels so long ago! But in November of last year our resident Teisseire expert Alex packed up and flew out to the capital of South Korea for a whirlwind 3-day tour of Seoul for its annual Café Show. Here are a few images of the stand we designed for this show & future exhibitions in Asia come to life:

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However, we couldn’t send her all that way without doing some snooping into what’s on trend in South Korea. Below are a few of the insights she picked up during her time out there:

1.       Drinks trends – a little on the Sweet side

Sweet, fruity serves were the stars of the show at the café show with drinks ranging from cocktails through to coffees flavoured with fresh fruit or sweet syrups. Topped with whipped cream, the serves also look incredibly sweet. There is also a fashion for sweetness in the other sense – an overload of cutesy cartoons, including Hello Kitty themed cafés and food inspired by these iconic characters. Whilst one could assume that these are targeting a younger generation, the likes of Kakao & Friends are huge in Seoul and appeal massively to adults also.

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2.       Keeping it healthy & organic

Although this seems a stark contrast to our first piece of insight, the movement towards fresh, organic drinks has taken just as much of a hold of the market in Seoul as it has here in London. Whilst this could be put down to the fact that Asia is the home of green tea and matcha (and boy, did Alex see a lot of that), that would be a narrow explanation for this movement. There was an abundance of freshly blended drinks such as smoothies, but also a large amount of organic juices (aptly branded ‘Healthy Juice’ amongst others) boasting their health-boosting and organic attributes.

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3.       A penchant for everything French

It’s no surprise that the French are world renowned for their style, grace and cuisine – and this reputation is highlighted in Seoul. Some of the best cafes in town had French names, and served ‘authentic’ French patisseries. This craze doesn’t seem to be dying down for a while.

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These trends are not a million miles away from those we have seen here in London over the last few years, however the unique angle that South Korean retailers take on these themes make them even more interesting.

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Wonderworks Top 5 Trends of 2017

I have never been happier to see trend forecasts released, signifying the end of the whirlwind year that called itself 2016. Here are our top 5 trends to look out for, in a (hopefully) brighter 2017:

1.      Freshness

Underpinned by Pantone’s Colour of the Year announcement (congratulations to Greenery), the movement towards freshness and natural cues will gain traction in 2017. For anyone who owns a Pinterest account, you will surely have seen photos of forest-inspired weddings, homes adorned with ferns and succulents and the like, so this will not really be a surprise. You could, however argue that this is not a new trend – consumers have become more health conscious, the trend for organic produce has been established for a few years now. Yet, in my view there are subtle differences between ‘freshness’ and ‘health’.

 The concept of freshness stretches into all facets of life, with inspiration drawn from the nature around us. From distilled soft drinks (you can read our post on that here) to creating minimally-designed outlets, including live flower installations, brands have been pulling on the threads of this trend for the last couple of years. Just look at the boom in botanical spirits (here’s to you gin, we love you) – so is 2017 going to be the golden year for all things fresh?

 2.      Authenticity

Consumers are moving away from mass-produced products, and are being led by a generation who value experience rather than material objects. This leads brands to have to really consider their proposition on every touchpoint and understand their messaging – every single aspect of the brand builds part of this experience, and must be authentic to drive the message through.

The sway towards authenticity is also leading consumers to purchase higher ticket items, which have been crafted, have a story to tell and limited to no artificial components. This has started to show its head in the development of ‘Ugly Drinks’ – a company producing drinks from the fruit and veg you wouldn’t see in a supermarket aisle. In a world where economic instability has pretty much become the norm, and purse strings are getting tighter, we are seeing quite the divergence in behaviour: consumers hate seeing waste, but also want their products to be genuine and honest.

So, what does this mean for brands in 2017? First and foremost, we need to really think about the proposal being put together for the brand. If there is one strategy that deviates from the brand message or story, lose it. To hit the target of an authentic brand, it’s better to have few messages that help the brand shine through, than have many that have been twisted to fit.

We happen to have a blog about our favourite example of authenticity in a brand story here. Convenient eh?

 3.      Artificial intelligence

Quite the 180° from our previous trend, AI is taking the world by storm. Whilst I’m not a technical expert on this, it’s fair to say that this new strain of technological development is moving incredibly quickly and will no doubt have an impact on what we are marketing and how we strategise.

One of the fields of AI to keep an eye on in 2017 is machine learning. Whilst this sounds like something from an 80’s sci-fi film, it is an important development in the world of AI – think automatic facial recognition on Facebook or self-driving cars, even up to generative design. The latter of these is one of the most interesting developments in AI for marketers -  I won’t (and can’t!) describe this in expert detail, but think of a software that takes your design intentions (say for example, a brand logo), and develops all possible outputs of this quickly and efficiently. Bonkers.

I would really recommend looking into the development in the world of AI for marketers in more detail – it is worthy of an information binge, so make sure you have an afternoon spare!

4.      Sensory experiences

Sensory experiences have been knocking around for a year or so now, but brands are really starting to embrace and push the boundaries of how these can enhance brand equity. Ranging from sensory tasting programmes through to imaginative ways of incorporating spirits with food, or even in bubbles, companies such as Bompas & Parr have broadened the scope of how to make food and drink exciting again.

5.      Experiences in general

Research run by PWC shows that the millennial generation are more willing to spend money on experiences than stuff. This could be anything from a great dinner out to a pop up event, but what has been coined the ‘experience economy’ shows no signs of slowing down in 2017. The new way forwards for brands to grow and gain great consumer loyalty is to understand that the consumer journey should be seen as a whole. Each and every touchpoint will impact their experience, which will (whether that experience was positive or negative) inevitably be shared both on social media and by word of mouth.

So, an interesting year lies ahead of us – hopefully with fewer twists and turns – but if these trends are correct, 2017 could prove to be incredibly exciting for us marketers!

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Walking* in a Winter Wonderland

*(pushing my way through tourists)

London turns into an incredible mass of sparkling lights in the weeks running up to Christmas. Whilst I was a bit disgruntled at the early arrival of the lights on Oxford Street, it does bring some festive cheer to these cold nights. But, to really experience the best of Christmas decorations in London, ditch the hoards of (brave/stupid, delete as appropriate) yuletide shoppers on the world's busiest street and head for Mayfair.


Normally New Bond Street and its surrounding streets make me uncomfortably aware that I don't fit their usual clientele, however, throw some glitter and baubles in the windows and I'm all over it. I was in awe of the detail that the stores had gone into to ensure that their displays were not only beautiful, but also reflected their premium positioning - their curation was almost museum-like.

In the realm of high end boutiques, two stood out above the rest: Tiffany & Co and Burberry. Tiffany's window displays were a great demonstration in how to showcase products in a festive way, without compromising their luxury credentials. By recreating recognisable festive scenes with their jewellery, they managed to bring the sparkle of Christmas to life in a new, inspiring way.

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Burberry, on the other hand, went down a slightly different, but just as impressive route. Bringing in an element of movement to their displays, they managed to add a level of childish nostalgia, whilst staying premium. Arctic puffins, a running polar bear and meerkats all made this display fun and engaging.

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On Oxford Street the shop fronts of John Lewis, House of Fraser and Selfridges all shout Christmas, but for a lesson in festive subtlety, a visit to Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly is called for. The message of their window displays 'Together We're Merrier' is wonderful and much needed after the whirlwind that called itself 2016, and  is brought to life with the exact right balance of nostalgia, humour and festiveness. Bobble hats off to my winner of London Christmas displays - not gaudy, too sentimental or trying too hard, just sharing some festive joy in a sleek, well thought out manner.

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A lesson in making authenticity & heritage interesting again - MAST Brothers

Trying to convince my friends to come on a chocolate factory tour with me was (unsurprisingly) easy - throw in a chocolate tasting and it's even easier. Based in Shoreditch, MAST Brothers chocolate factory and shop is a hidden gem in a city boasting all sorts of immersive experiences. And simplicity is at the heart of everything for these chocolate makers.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the experience, as I knew nothing about the brand's production or history, and I was more than pleasantly surprised! It is always a struggle to strike the right balance of authenticity and heritage when telling a brand story - dive too deep into origins and artisan production technique and you can lose a portion of your audience, make it too basic and risk glossing over some of your most interesting brand assets - however our tour guide at MAST Brothers got it just the right amount of whimsical and educational.

The shop itself is incredibly impressive - it is so well curated, it could almost be an exhibit at the Tate Modern. Each chocolate bar is a piece of art in its own right - that's what using independent artists in the place of designers, and hand wrapping each individual bar will get you. At the back of the sleek shop floor, ceiling-high windows allow a sneak peek into the factory. Even calling it a factory is an exaggeration! Every piece of equipment is so minimal and well thought out that it alone demonstrates the crafting that goes into this brand. It's all so un-try hard and authentically cool that it's almost annoying.

Whilst we were told about the brand's humble beginnings as the brain child of the two Mast brothers in New York, it was thrown into the tour almost like casual conversation, so nothing seemed too overbranded. The focus of the tour was to educate about chocolate production, and how to make a genuinely great product (like Mast chocolate, coincidentally) rather than to reinforce any super-obvious brand messages. The brand message here is: we make great chocolate - here's how. 

We all left the tour full of chocolate samples and exclaiming about how this was the dream job - Mast Brothers is like that really beautiful, smart, lovely person in your year in Sixth Form who you couldn't dislike because they were so cool. Sit up and take note other brands - show people what your brand really is, and focus on that!

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Christmas is just around the corner

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Hallowe'en is over for another year, and our news feeds are gently clearing of friends' photos of their satirical or 'cultural' costumes (not sure how much they'll be missed...), so what next? Christmas of course!

Whilst the Christmas lights on Oxford Street popped up out of nowhere at the start of October to much grumbling from commuters, they've now become part of the furniture. For me, the announcement that popped up on my Instagram feed this morning that signalled the start of Christmas - the Pret Christmas sandwich range is launching in just one week! I can almost hear the jingle bells!

A turkey sandwich shouldn't really garner as much attention and excitement as this - the announcement on Instagram didn't even use words, such is the icon status of this humble lunch. Pret have nailed the understated marketing that is so missed around this time of year, and bring some festive goodwill in the form of their donations to charity for every item purchased.

Christmas cheer can now start - bring on the mulled wine, Ferrero Rocher and Wham!

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London Cocktail Week Village - Thoughts & Opinions

Walking into the Cocktail Village at Old Spitalfields Market is quite the experience! Not only is the idea of a 'Cocktail Village' my version of nirvana, but the impressive stands set up by brands are a sight to behold!

From chicken shops to pop up pubs, brands (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) have pulled out all the stops in ensuring their customers' experience of the brand is positive and memorable. So, how did they manage this?

1. The roles of promo staff are changing

Obviously, getting your product on a [potential] customer's lips is vital, but sampling no longer appears to be the method of choice for brands. Whilst a couple of the bigger brands (notably Schweppes and Baileys) had teams with trays outside their stalls duly handing out samples of their brands, the smaller brands were the ones to watch. Using their teams to run games, or even serve behind the bar and educate the customers, these brands were engaging people with their stories and products in a more natural way, which resonates well with consumers.

2. How to stand out in the crowd

And what a crowd it was! With so many brands vying for customers' attention, the creativity of brands was showcased in the village. The first one that springs to mind is Captain Morgan's pirate ship bar, complete with a swashbuckling bar team - impactful, and definitely on brand! Japanese Sake brand Akashi-Tai brought a taste of Japanese drinking culture to East London with the help of Shochu Bar, which certainly added a different flavour to the venue. Most brands had noticed the importance of increasing dwell time at their bars by including seating where possible - simple, but a sure way to draw tired, cocktail consuming customers to your stand. 

As always, the brands using social media booths stood out - in the time of the 'Instagram-effect', it is an incredibly clever decision to include an easy-to-operate photo booth at a stand. Not only does it automatically generate content for your social media, but it integrates your brand into a memorable client experience.

Tia Maria, however wins on stand out - offering coffee at a cocktail event? Inspired.

3. Two for the price of one

There were more partnerships in the LCW Village than we've seen before, and not only food and drink pairing - Southern Comfort/Fried Chicken combos and Reyka Vodka/Ice Cream pairings to name a couple - but even bars. We've previously mentioned the Shochu Bar partnership with Aksashi-Tai sake, however Bombay Sapphire teamed up with Cahoots (one of London's quirkiest bars, based in a disused tube station) to promote their 'Grand Tour' campaign. These partnerships allow a lot more brand personality to shine through, and were cleverly thought through by these brands.

4. Soft drinks are upping their game

Not only were their bars some of the most interesting, but soft drinks brands are now on par with spirits in terms of positioning. Call us biased, but Britvic's 'Winking Pig' pub pop up held its own against the spirits brands, and was a fantastic way to announce the launch of the Lifting Spirits Campaign (you can read more about that here)Fever Tree's container bar, with its rooftop garden also helped to demonstrate just how mixer brands are coming into their own, hosting some of the most interesting bars and showing how integral they are to pub and bar life. Watch your backs, spirit brands!

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Boutique Bar Show - Our Top 3 Findings

We ventured out East to visit the Boutique Bar Show London, without really knowing what to expect. Held in a lovely old stable building opposite Spitalfields Market, the show was different from any other trade show we've visited. Not over branded, each exhibitor had the same size stall around the venue, providing a sense of equality between the brands that are more established and those that are new to the scene.

After a wander around, some sampling, and some conversations with very passionate brand ambassadors, we left with a consensus on our 'top 3 most interesting things we saw'...


1. Ginger Beer gets a Gluten Free Makeover

Crabbies have held a monopoly over the alcoholic ginger beer market for a while now, so it was interesting to see Fentiman's (a brand who are associated with soft drinks) introducing their take on the drink. Not only does their Ginger Beer strike the new trend of catering for the gluten-free market, but it also differentiates itself from its competitors by using a base of pear juice. This, paired with the fiery ginger root flavour, will appeal to both ginger beer and cider/perry drinkers, as it provides a much lighter drink. It seems that the team at Fentiman's have also been thinking long term; they have produced two variants of their Ginger Beer - the original, and a Spiced Ginger Beer. The latter of these smells exactly like Christmas, and is begging to be served warm over the winter months. This provides Fentiman's to be a perennial brand, with their light, refreshing option throughout the summer months, followed up by their winter-warmer during the colder climes. 


2. There's a gin for everyone

It's a good thing that we like it here in the office, as it doesn't look like this trend will die soon! With what seemed like 3 artisinal gin stalls for every one stall for anything else, the ways in which these brands are setting themselves apart from each other are getting increasingly creative. We saw artisinal, vegan, locally sourced gins from the North East, gin with foraged botanicals from the very tip of Cornwall and even a black gin. In a market almost full to bursting, it's incredible to see that there is still some wiggle room for innovation and creativity.


3. Bespoke Mixers are a thing

Because, why wouldn't they be? Tonic water was made to go with gin, but cola wasn't created with the intention of emphasising the flavour of whisky or rum. This is where possibly our favourite discovery of the Boutique Bar Show comes in - Sekforde Drinks. The new brand offers two variants of soft drinks, crafted to perfectly complement the flavours of a rum or whiskey. Minimally designed, and well positioned as premium yet approachable, these soft drinks work not only as a mixer to bring out the best of their spirit, but could also be consumed as standalone drinks. Topped off with a low calorie count and natural ingredients, what more could you want?!


Overall, Boutique Bar Show was a great experience for us to enjoy - for us, a very new take on a trade show, with interesting, young innovators showcasing their skills and passion for their products and the industry as a whole. It's a definite must-visit if you can (shows are also hosted in Edinburgh and Manchester) and is getting us very excited for the upcoming London Cocktail Week! 

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Så underbart (how wonderful!) - an IKEA pop up in Shoreditch

Just as you think that Shoreditch pop-ups are going out of style, IKEA open their new Scandi-fantastic shop/restaurant right on Shoreditch High Street. The pop-up itself is a testament to its warehouse shop owner - minimalist, stylish and practical, yet somehow it all seems more premium in its new environment.

This setup showcases IKEA's simplicity at its finest and acts as a fantastic showroom for all of its wares in a more hospitable, engaging way than the large stores. This just goes to show that smaller, city based outlets could work to IKEA's benefit - whilst I'm unsure whether this was their retail test run, it proves that there is always an appetite for home ware items that people never knew they needed, until they saw them.

However lovely the opportunity to buy IKEA items from somewhere other than a retail unit on the outskirts of the city is, the most interesting part of this pop up is the restaurant. With calls to action painted on the walls in the form of hashtags, customers are introduced to the intention of pop up - to make an indelible link between IKEA and food.

By introducing the 'cook your own meal' aspect, IKEA have managed to avoid the now overused pop-up-restaurant-hosted-by-someone-unexpected event. The idea of being able to invite 10 friends to help cook a dinner in a fully equipped kitchen, overseen by a chef, for free (!) is appealing to anyone who just so happens to be in IKEA's target market. Young, creative, Londoners who have just moved to the city, or are still trying to fill up their kitchen drawers (you're always missing something - garlic press is next on the list), make up the majority of visitors to these types of one-off events. These consumers are on the look out for a bargain, something to share with their friends, and something to boast about on Instagram, and IKEA have hit the nail (or should it be one of those annoying dowels that always go missing?) on the head with this one!

Whilst it might not ease the inevitable pain of building the next flatpack bookshelf you buy from there, IKEA have managed to set up a pop up which isn't whimsical, quirky, or trying too hard. Every part of this event is well thought through, and executed to perfection. All whilst making everything look oh-so-simple. Definitely a lesson in great brand execution.

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Everything we need is now at our fingertips...

But is this a good thing? The move to online grocery shopping has been gradual over the last few years (my mother now even gets her shop delivered to her in a village where there's no SatNav signal. Poor delivery drivers), however Amazon's new ordering system 'Dash' has taken this convenience to a new level.

If the launch of one-button grocery ordering had occurred in the Spring time, I would have labelled this as an elaborate April Fool's Day joke. The idea of going to the toilet, realising there's no loo roll left, and pressing a button to order more seems like a prank, yet apparently this is the way the world is moving - to the point where Carling has just announced its own beer button (!).

So, is this new introduction of super-easy shopping revolutionary, or just a sheer marketing ploy by brands monopolising the buttons? Available to only Amazon Prime members, the Dash buttons can be bought for £4.99 and set up around your home (assuming you have WiFI). So far, brands including Ariel, Fairy, Kleenex, Olay, Gillette, Rimmel and Nescafé have introduced their own buttons, but will we soon see homes covered in buttons, working as marketing tools in themselves?

It would appear that not everyone shares my opinion of this being lazier version of online shopping - don't get me wrong, as a full-time worker, I really value the convenience of an online shopping service - but this button development takes convenience and drives it off a cliff. Yet, in the US, where the service has been available for a while, it has been welcomed with a warm reception:

Since launching in the US last year, the Dash Button programme has seen continued growth. Figures shared by the company show that in the last two months, Dash Button orders have increased threefold and orders via Dash Button take place at a rate of over twice a minute. The number of Dash Button brands available in the US has also expanded four times faster in 2016 compared with 2015.
— https://www.marketingweek.com/2016/08/31/amazon-launches-dash-service-in-the-uk-with-pg-and-nestle/

I'm an old fashioned-cynic (often called a prematurely middle aged woman by a large group of my friends - cheers), and so I know that my opinion on this is skewed. With my positive hat on, I can see this being nothing but advantageous - never running out of socks and laundry powder at the same time again! What a world of opportunities!

The advantages of this from a brand point of view are overwhelming also - imagine your brand permanently attached to someone's wall, they have no other brands around on offer to choose from - a marketeer's dream! It will increase loyalty and brand recognition to say the very least; not only are you marketing to a captive audience of residents in the house, but also any visitors they have.

Can I see myself using this new service? Probably not. Will it change the way we shop and think about brands? Almost definitely.

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How the Pumpkin Spice Latte has come to define Autumn

It's happened. The summer (if you can call it that) is over, and once again we're being told tales of Indian Summers, last minute heatwaves etc. These (mostly) empty promises have become annual markers of the start of Autumn - however there is one more prolific marker, that we can thank our friends across the pond for - the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Starbucks have once again become a sign of seasonal changes with this drink - known as PSL to those who are its most devout advocates. Like the Christmas Red Cups, people around the world (and seemingly all over the internet) wait for the coffee chain to release its autumnal special - to the point where memes are being created to mark this momentous occasion (the internet is the breeding place for sensations it would seem). Whilst the most of these images are, let's say, less than complimentary, the drink lives on - and the sensation just keeps growing.

I don't even know what a pumpkin spice is, to be completely honest. But what I do know is that it has taken the world beyond coffee by storm also, albeit mostly amongst our American friends. Pumpkin Spice soaps and cosmetics have been launched, including a line of makeup (absolutely bonkers) - but it's working! In the 11 years from its launch in 2003, Starbucks sold 200 million of their signature autumn drink*, and have left their competitors in their wake. Yes, the Starbucks cup has been a status icon for busy city workers and teenagers wielding frappuccinos for years, yet is the company's ability to expand its nature as an icon into seasonal status items that is incredible.

Costa, Nero and Pret all have their own seasonal drinks, but none of them have become synonymous with their brand. Nero and Costa have launched their own festive cups, yet have they become intrinsically linked to the start of Christmas? Unfortunately for them, no. The Red Cups have become so important to the festive season, that there were angry protesters at its relaunch (you can read about that here...it's odd to say the least). I mean, there's even a countdown to their launch - divided by country!

 So here's to the start of Autumn, a heavily Pumpkin Spiced season, which seems to act as the holding season before the launch of the Red Cups and commercial Christmas!

*http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2013/09/22/how-starbucks-turned-pumpkin-spice-into-a-marketing-bonanza/&refURL=&referrer=

 

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The future is more loyal (& it's easier to pay for stuff too)

I honestly believe that the main reason I carry a handbag around with me is for my loyalty cards. I love them, whether it be Advantage Points, a free coffee when I've already bought 10, or the promise of a birthday present I'll probably never reclaim, I'm completely bought in. 

However, my love for a loyalty scheme isn't shared so much by retailers - as a system, it's bred expected behaviour, rather than loyalty, and there is no way of measuring its success as a mechanic.

This is where Yoyo Wallet steps in - and it's frustrating how simple it is. Not only does it solve the problem (as a customer) of forgetting your loyalty card at home and missing out on that ever-important stamp, but it also supports retailers develop their CRM databases. CRM systems are becoming key for retailers and marketing teams, as consumers are increasingly wanting a more personal offer - a deal on the coffee that they order daily, rather than a discounted pastry they might not ever buy, for example. This opportunity to tailor a deal to a consumer's buying habits is becoming increasingly necessary and, with the development of apps like Yoyo Wallet, also increasingly possible.

Even the way in which this app has introduced itself to the consumer world is annoyingly obvious - in the way that makes you want to kick yourself and go 'Why didn't I think of that?!'. They've started by ticking off the smaller, independent coffee shops and cafes around their offices - a very sensible move - however, they have also targeted university campuses, which is where the roll out gets really clever. By introducing an app to students (who love a deal, are notoriously forgetful, and are practically glued to their smartphones), Yoyo Wallet are pretty much breeding behaviour in a petri-dish of ideal users. Users who will be moving to key cities in the next 3 years maximum, bringing their buying habits with them. Like I said, annoyingly obvious, but incredibly intuitive.

So, what's next for the world of app payment and loyalty? It's the love-child of both the Apple Pay and O2 Priority apps, which are used liberally, so I can't see that there will be any issue in consumer pick up. On the same hand, as previously mentioned, its appeal to retailers will be huge from a CRM point of view. However, I can't shake from my mind that there are a lot of app payment systems, bespoke loyalty apps and the large companies will have invested in CRM systems. 

In a world of tech revolutions, and new apps popping up nearly every day, this is one which I believe (and really hope) will succeed. Not only would it make our lives easier (the aim of most tech advances...) but it will actually have an impact to change the way in which we shop.

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A Beauty Revolution

We've all been there - nearing the bottom of a bottle of your favourite foundation, and weighing up the inevitable pain of battling your way through a busy Oxford Street department store to replace it, against the easier option of just exposing your bare face to the world. Well, replacing our staple makeup items has just become infinitely easier, thanks to Fabled on Tottenham Court Road.

I have long asked myself why shops like Sephora don't exist in the UK - we're either stuck with a wall display full of lurid eye shadows in Boots, or being bashed out of the way by a parent in search of school shoes at a busy department store concession. The whole process of makeup shopping had become daunting and needed a bit of a switch up.

What is it?

Fabled is a dedicated makeup shop, hosted by an unlikely partnership between Marie Claire and Ocado, just off Oxford Circus. A sleek, modern store front is equal parts premium and intriguing - I've been recommending a visit to everyone I know (even before I'd been in myself...). This is, by all accounts, Ocado's first bricks and mortar shop, and Marie Claire's first foray into retail, however the union seems to work. The combination of recommendations from the experts at the magazine, and the ability to top up your weekly food shop with your favourite lipstick seems so obvious now, but it is actually revolutionary in itself.

Why does it work?

Firstly, as previously mentioned, the UK does not have an equivalent of Sephora - the people need make up, why make it tough for them to get? So, Fabled fills that gap nicely. However its success, in my view, lies in its layout - whilst the store is divided by brand, it has also developed a categorising system around the store. By dividing the cosmetics between their use (face, eye lips etc.), and then by colour, the Ocado influence in the store's conception shines through - and it works incredibly well. The target market for a store like Fabled is used to the convenience of online shopping - filtering down all items until you find the one you're searching for - however, buying items like cosmetics online is incredibly difficult. There are questions over skin tone, finish, complexion, that can only really be answered in person, so how brilliant is it to have the best of both worlds - the ability to find what you're looking for quickly, and then have that choice validated by an expert?

Final Thoughts

Whilst I've had to hold myself back from buying nearly all of the products on display at Fabled (believe me, it was harder than expected), I'm incredibly impressed by the shop. Its sleek design, intuitive layout and dedicated makeup experts make it one of the nicest retail experiences I've had lately, and has made me preach to nearly every person I meet about its brilliance. They say that word of mouth is one of the most valuable forms of marketing, and so you're welcome Fabled - I have not shut up about you since you opened!

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GBBF: Where real ale & craft beer meet

Conjure up an image of the Great British Beer Festival in your mind, and it's probably a collection of middle aged men with beards, enjoying a traditional British ale. I used to believe the very same thing, however this year my perception of this mainstay of the beer calendar has been changed. This was not my first time at the festival (having worked at a brewery, I've seen my fair share of London's various beer events), however this was the first time I really noticed the shift in demographic. Don't get me wrong, the staples of the festival were there - Charles Wells, Fuller's and St Austell's to name a few - but there were also a few newer, more outlandish breweries in attendance (here's looking at you Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.). So, what happened when my Latvian colleague and I visited what he aptly called 'the most British place he's ever been'?

1. There was a lot of beer

Which is to be expected - but more than being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of the stuff, it was the variety that really impressed us. We started off with a sample of Fuller's golden ales (Oliver's Island & Summer Ale) and ended with Tiny Rebel's hoppy, zesty beers (Hadouken & Juicy), with a dash of some perry somewhere in between (it's really quite hard to drink ale consistently). A far cry from the traditional ales at a beer festival, which are still rightly drawing a large crowd (don't get me wrong, t's hard to beat a Tribute or a London Gold), GBBF has recently become a showcase of just how interesting and innovative real ale can be. From experimenting with unusual hop combinations to playing with the ABV/drinkability balance, there was, indeed, a lot of beer to see (and much too much to drink!)

2. Real Ale and Craft Beer are not mutually exclusive

Anyone that I've spoken to about traditional British Ale will be bored by me repeating this again - real ale and craft beer (in my humble opinion) are peas in the same pod. The brewers at GBBF definitely exhibited this even though the big names in craft beer were not present - you should look out for them at festivals such as Craft Beer Rising, or London Craft Beer Festival (coincidentally taking place on the same weekend as GBBF) - by demonstrating their skills as traditional breweries. Their craftsmanship demonstrates clearly that they paved the way for modern (micro)breweries to be as wacky and exploratory as they want.

Not only the quality of the beer demonstrated this link between the traditional & craft breweries - the way in which the breweries were exhibiting was almost the most exciting it has been at GBBF for years! Of course, the Charles Wells/Bombardier bus was front & centre, but it was interesting to see signs that the traditional breweries are taking note of their craftier compatriots. St Austell's brewery were blasting the ABBA with a disco feel, and whilst it was a bit of an odd Scandi-Cornwall hybrid, it did work. However, amongst the collection of refurbished vans and trucks, it was The Rev James' (Brain's brewery's cooler younger brother) photo booth that really stood out.

The fact that they embraced the more craft-dominated world of social media, by creating GIFs which could be posted using a bespoke hashtag, made this stall stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the exhibitors, and showed that there is a credible place for real ale in the world of craft.

3. The GBBF stereotype is oh-so wrong

Groups of young professionals and even a hen do were spotted at the festival this year - and not even as anomalies. I know that I'm being horribly stereotyping expecting to see beards, bumbags and socks with sandals (although there were a few) at a CAMRA event, but this is a view held (very wrongly) by a younger generation. We expect to see our dad and his friends, not Jack the young graduate holding a job in the City, at these events, but this younger crowd is getting increasingly involved with these beer festivals. This, especially seeing groups of 20 to 30-something women wandering around, gave me a real sense of pride - the great British tradition of fantastic beers does not seem to be a dying one. Helped, undoubtedly, by the micro-brewery boom, British brewing is appealing to a more diverse group than ever before. And whilst it might take me some time to persuade my mother that women do indeed drink beer by the pint, I am incredibly proud to see that this seems to be a generational belief, and that young men and women from around the country are embracing the diverse world of Great British Beer. 

 

 

 

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