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We try…Meta-Row at Metabolic London

We try…Meta-Row at Metabolic London

As we come to the end of week two in our #30for30 campaign, new classes and fitness inspiration have been very welcome here in the Sport & Fitness team. Partly because we love trying the latest creations of course, but mainly to help break up the endless runs and spinning classes that have been churned out day-after-day to date.

So, when I heard about Metabolic London, and their innovative Meta-Row class, I was instantly intrigued (if not slightly intimidated) by the class description. It simply read: “Not for the faint-hearted. This class is brutal and will test the best”. Despite my better judgement, I signed up then and there.

Sunday morning soon came around and I was on my way to Mornington Crescent for the class. Having dropped off my bag in the changing rooms, I was good to go. Meta-Row was London’s first boutique group rowing class when it launched in summer 2017. The gym itself is unlike anything I’ve seen before – a huge open space decked out with black walls and more equipment than you could ever wish for.

Scott, the instructor for our class, gathered us together to walk everyone through what we were about to do. Asking if anyone was nursing a hangover, I must admit I was tempted to raise my hand – only to make it less embarrassing for when I inevitably passed out mid-class, but I ultimately thought better of it.

The class itself is made up of row and total body circuit intervals, with interchangeable rounds. With all of the rowing machines lined up, we kicked off with a four minute row. Straight on to the first circuit, which entailed a combination of medicine ball throws, burpees, squats and crunches. One round down and I’m already feeling it. No time to let up, however, as we are into another four minute row and then back on to the mats for the next circuit – featuring kettle bell swings and lifts, followed by a crawl into a press up.

Back on the rowing machine we went – this time for a five minute stint – to try and beat our stats from before, cheered on willingly by the ever-present Scott. A final circuit which included “explosive” burpees and I was well and truly spent. Despite the physical trauma I’d just been through, the feeling of achievement was unparalleled.

The best thing about Meta-Row is it’s suitable for all levels of fitness – you can go at your own pace. At £10 for your first class, it’s cheaper than the majority of boutique classes out there, and you’ll do well to find a better workout. We’ll be back, just as soon as our DOMS ease up.

Scare Tactics : ‘Fear’ as a Successful Communications Tool

 

The value of emotion in selling products, and papers, is more or less indubitable.

Christmas: every advert pulls on the heartstrings. Headlines about fairness and altruism pepper the pages of our newspapers.

February: roses are red, violets are blue and romance is in the air for every marketing campaign and headline that can possibly squeeze in an iota of an excuse for doing so.

Yet this is not just a gimmick of once-a-year holidays. It is a strategic part of brand narratives from McDonald’s to Nike, Virgin to Jack Wills.

And one of the most effective emotions is fear.

Take as an example the full-sized polar bear released in London this past January. It disrupted tube-commuters’ usual routine of ‘studiously minding own business and ensuring zero eye contact with anyone’ with a potential panic attack.

“Is it real?!” People begged the cameras recording their mixed reactions of fear and curiosity.

Twitter went crazy. Videos and photos spread across the Internet.

As a stunt it grabbed headlines – partly because a giant white bear on the Jubilee line makes a great photo – but it also embodied the new television show it was publicising, Fortitude, by using a bear that is something of a sinister motif for danger in the show to create a similar threatened feeling in the British public.  Moreover, considering Sky’s current adverts saying ‘not all television is created equal’, which suggests their programmes are somewhat more challenging, more intriguing, this stunt certainly seemed to capture hearts and minds with a comparable emotive thread.

An ‘Emotion Factor’ constitutes a central part of helping a consumer to bond with a brand, a business, a product, a person.

Hardly a new concept, Dale Carnegie identified emotions as key for business people who want to appeal to their customers back in 1936 and it has been the linchpin in communications of all kinds ever since. There are books dedicated to it, and academic studies.

Those who have never watched Mad Men might be forgiven for wondering then why I’m talking about fear. Almost everyone has been told sex sells as demonstrated by Davidoff cologne or Virgin Atlantic adverts. Many will have experienced how feeling empowered makes that totally unaffordable car sound like a good idea, or how humour makes one website seem simpler and friendlier than the other.

But to quote Don Draper: “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? … It’s freedom from fear.”

The same applies to building a narrative in public relations.

Telling a story for a business is an integral part of PR because it’s all about looking for the story that will bring a brand’s message to life. A story can build or bulldoze a reputation, manage or frustrate consumers. So whether it’s through a message, a logo, a CEO or even a product, telling a superficial tale is not going to win over a busy journalist or capture the attention of a digital audience. Only a quality, sophisticated story can do that. Preferably one that’s succinct and can fit into the required column inches.

This is where fear comes in. Good stories need an element of fear.  Something for a hero to overcome. That hero might be the consumer or the product or the business as a whole. But if all is happiness, simplicity, friendliness, and humour, what’s the point in being a hero, of wanting more than this? How can you feel powerful driving that car, or sexy travelling on that flight, or clever because you chose this brand, if there’s nothing to fear?

Nike does this well, painting the consumer as both hero and villain. Their base, lazy-self doesn’t want to wake up, to run, to push up that hill. Can their strong, inner hero win out? Yes, they can. Likewise, the anti-bank narrative taken up by new financial technology (fintech) companies often paint themselves as ‘Jack’ characters going up against fearsome ‘Giants’. A traditional story becomes a strategy rooted in the potential to conquer fear.

By identifying what seems scary, the opportunity to expose ways to overcome the monster emerges. This encourages people to believe in the story, to come to their own conclusions and hopefully align their opinions with that of the brand. Since they value this self-made deduction more than those shoved down their throats, the business’ story then becomes their story. Loyalty is created. A reputation with consumers established.

Crucially different from the fear inspired by some political propaganda or scaremongering, it’s important to note that this kind of fear is also distinct from manipulation. Using fear is not a way of coercing consumers into falling for a web of lies.  It is, however, a means of a business connecting on a human level with the people it needs to connect with and a way of cohering a brand with both left-brain ideas and right-brain emotions.

So whether it’s by tapping into the fear of missing out, the reality of heart disease, the creepiness of unseen germs, or just the Very Dangerous World – businesses need to really start thinking about what people fear and what story they want to tell in the age of anxiety.

Christmas Window Displays: Maximising on PR Potential

With John Lewis and Selfridges unveiling their Christmas window displays this week, we think about how to maximise on these huge retail advertisements.

Image Courtesy of Miguel MG, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Miguel MG, flickr.com

Window displays give shoppers a reason to visit the stores. This is never more true than at Christmas time. Windows are a huge, physical and tangible advert; an enticement not only to the passer-by, but to the wider public, giving them a reason to visit the store. It is important that retailers set the tone with their window displays, and at Christmas, they are designed to warm customers’ hearts and put people in the festive spirit. For retailers, it is hoped that this will then translate into Christmas purchases and, more importantly, impulse buys. Often a huge investment for retailers, window displays are an important asset for PRs prior to the festive season.

Window Displays – A Brief History

Retailer window displays were first introduced when large plate glass became readily available during the industrial revolution, but became popular in the late 1800s when London’s West End became popular on Christmas Eve with people visiting to view displays of ham and puddings in large shops. This then progressed in the twentieth century. The 1930s saw Salvador Dali designing window fronts for Manhattan’s hottest new shops, and in the 1960s saw Andy Warhol design the windows for Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue.

This Week

 

Image Courtesy of James Petts, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of James Petts, flickr.com

This week John Lewis, Oxford Street has unveiled its Christmas window display (a little ahead of the curve, with most choosing to get Halloween over and done with). The window has a ‘winter woodland’ theme with little squirrels, owls, weasels and foxes made from household products from the department store. Usually overshadowed by its rivals (namely Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nicholls) John Lewis has abandoned its conservative style and adopted some festive flare.

Selfridges too have this week unveiled their Christmas window, an edible city of London; a fantasy city including gingerbread Euston Arch and Old London Bridge.

PR Strategy

John Lewis has been particularly strategic in its PR campaign for the Christmas window display, inviting journalists to help the design team in creating some of its woodland creatures. Asking journalists within the national media to join in creating owls and weasels from coffee cups and knives and forks is a great experiential offering, encouraging journalists to then include news features once the windows have launched. The window display also gives PRs a huge asset for picture-driven news stories within the national media, where they can use the creativity and efforts of the design team as leverage with the press.

The Name of the Game – Starbucks Get Friendly With New Campaign

Image Courtesy of Katarina Ribnikar, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Katarina Ribnikar, flickr.com

Last Wednesday Starbucks got everyone very excited when they launched their new PR campaign to offer everyone a free latte to celebrate a new initiative to stop charging customers for an extra shot of coffee, should they want it.

Being a daily Starbucks customer myself, there was no way I was going to miss out on this opportunity so popped to Great Marlborough Street to see what was happening. Inside I was greeted at the back of the queue by a smiley member of staff who was waiting for me to say the magic password “Hi my name is Jacqueline” – a compulsory part of the exercise in order to obtain your free latte.

I then gave the barista my name and order and once it was ready they called my name to say it was ready, rather than the name of the drink as they usually do. I honestly found that this kind of service brightened my day, and reminded me of the same sense of welcome conveyed when you walk into a store in the United States. The atmosphere was very buzzy with lots of strangers talking to each other discussing the goings-on. The happiness was definitely spreading and you could certainly tell that people left with a smile on their face having had a happy start to their day.

In terms of lifestyle PR, Starbucks are THE go-to brand, having created the ultimate lifestyle experience through its brand. Buying a Starbucks has (through effective branding, marketing and PR) become a choice based on your lifestyle, rather than your thirst.

What is the general verdict on this new campaign though? As a stereotype, we Brits may deem this an invasion of privacy. In my opinion, having that personal touch does make the customer feel special and this was proven by the atmosphere in Starbucks on the day.  With customer service standards seemingly dwindling these days let’s hope Starbucks have started a trend that will spread to other businesses.