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Shoes: Pleasure & Pain at the V&A Museum

Culture, Entertainment

The Oxford English Dictionary describes shoes as ‘a covering for the foot, typically made of leather, having a sturdy sole and not reaching above the ankle’. However, if the V&A Museum’s Shoes: Pleasure & Pain exhibition taught us anything at all, it’s that there is much more to them than that.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes shoes as ‘a covering for the foot, typically made of leather, having a sturdy sole and not reaching above the ankle’. However, if the V&A Museum’s Shoes: Pleasure & Pain exhibition taught us anything at all, it’s that there is much more to them than that.

The exhibition showcases extreme footwear along with the people who have owned, collected and, in some cases, endured them through the ages and across the globe. Focusing on the main themes of status, sex and seduction, the cultural significance of footwear is brought to life by hundreds of pairs on show.

David Beckham’s Adidas football boots with “Brooklyn” embossed on the tongues sit alongside the glass slippers created for Lily James in her role as Cinderella. Both are examples of footwear’s storytelling capabilities for marketers: while Beckham’s boots can make young boys feel like sporting superstars, Cinderella’s slippers depict the classic rags to riches story with no introduction needed.

Throughout history, footwear has had the ability to affect a wearer’s movement and pairs from centuries apart can be strikingly similar. Shoes from seemingly different worlds – platforms worn by a geisha, silver sandals gifted to an Indian princess, miniscule shoes from China for bound feet – would ultimately serve the same purpose. In this case, to slow and restrict the movement of the women wearing them.

The exhibition explores the often perverse relationship people have with shoes. The set-up is reminiscent of a boudoir with its dim lighting and dark velvet. Walking around feels voyeuristic yet fascinating in equal measure, particularly in the ‘seduction’ section where a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes are at such an extreme angle, the wearer has no choice but to crawl. You get an insight into a dark and mysterious world you may not otherwise know.

The V&A has created a truly comprehensive and global retrospective of shoes. Not only is there an even split of men’s and women’s footwear, relatively new designers such as Sophia Webster have their work displayed alongside industry heavyweights like Manolo Blahnik. Each shoe has a story and the craftsmen are given a voice – a big screen encased in shoeboxes shows designers and shoe makers talking about everything from their inspiration to the intricacies of the design process.

We left the exhibition inspired, excited and fascinated by the vivid and creative stories that footwear can tell. Certainly something to think about next time we’re looking for unexpected brand communications ideas for a client – or, of course, when we’re struck by a craving to buy a really great pair of killer shoes.

Written by: Ellie Heatrick and Simrata Bhalla

Shoes: Pleasure & Pain is on at the V&A until 31 January 2016.

Image: Wedding toe-knob paduka, silver and gold over wood, India, 1800s
Shoes: Pleasure & Pain at the V&A, 2015
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

What does the FT do for Nikkei? English language with a British accent.

Corporate Reputation, Media

Some will share the unease voiced by Will Hutton on BBC Newsnight that the Financial Times has passed into overseas ownership, especially in the scenario he painted where other media assets such as ITV and Channel 4 are targets for global players such as Comcast of the US.

Some will share the unease voiced by Will Hutton on BBC Newsnight that the Financial Times has passed into overseas ownership, especially in the scenario he painted where other media assets such as ITV and Channel 4 are targets for global players such as Comcast of the US.

Having worked at the FT for six years and been sinfully proud to be one of its reporters, I know what Hutton means, but we Brits should analyse more closely why these assets are so much in demand.

We should see why it represents opportunity.

The Financial Times is unique. The benign ownership Pearson exercised for 58 years has kept it sharp, forward-looking and independent. From time to time it flirts with general news, occasionally even with sport, but it always comes back to its business focus, its homeland.

It has become a global newspaper by virtue of digital distribution and its sense of itself. What the FT thinks increasingly matters. It has clout. That’s why it is so attractive to Nikkei*.

Where does that clout come from and why doesn’t Nikkei, a much richer and more successful business, already have it?

Partly it stems from the FT being more digital. On the face of it, Nikkei is a very similar business – a powerful and highly influential main newspaper title (with a circulation in print of 2.7m, 10 times the FT’s global physical sales) and a host of subsidiary businesses. Both have market indices with their brand name on.

Yet Nikkei has been less of a digital experimenter. Its core title has 430,000 digital subscribers which is only about 16 per cent of its total audience. The FT, with 500,000 of its current 737,000 subscribers online, has made more progress in the transition to the digital-only (or at least very limited print) future where future-gazers say that sustainable profits lie.

The other reason Nikkei has found it more difficult to spread its influence (and the FT has found it easier) is the unparalleled advance of the English language. Launching its Nikkei Asian Review magazine in 2013 was a step in becoming global; not its first English-language publication by any means, but a bold expansion of ambition.

However, the native English speaking FT is on a different scale in the way it changes the footprint of Nikkei.

Here is where opportunity lies for other Brits: it is not just the language, but the accent that the FT brings which makes it such a catch. Like the rest of the British press, the FT is a bit more irreverent, a bit less deferential, a bit more cheeky and candid than US equivalents. Like the baddies in Hollywood films, its British accent makes it stand out.

The FT thinks of itself as global, and in many ways it is, but its Britishness has made it global, made it distinctive and desirable. Personally, I believe Nikkei, who are smart operators, know this and will recognise that to change that character defeats the purpose of buying the pink paper in the first place.

*Nikkei is an Edelman Japan client. Ben Fenton has previously worked for the Nikkei Asian Review in London. 

Image: GongTo / Shutterstock.com

A version of this post originally appeared on City A.M.

Written by: Ben Fenton, Senior Consultant at Edelman

Making it personal

Corporate Reputation, Innovation

Increasingly, companies are able to understand our habits and preferences as consumers of their product. So how are they harnessing these to stand out from their competitors.

How harnessing our habits and preferences as consumers is helping companies stand out from their competitors

This week, a popular music streaming service released a playlist service which analyses users’ listening habits before creating a tailored two-hour playlist updated every week. The more you listen, the more sophisticated the playlist becomes, just like your best friend has made you a mixtape.

But as consumers how much do we want a personalised service? And what is the value of personalisation for businesses and does it differ to customisation?

Good hotels and restaurants have offered a personal service for decades. Addressing a regular guest by name; offering them their favourite table; or replacing champagne for beer in the mini bar as preferred are basic behaviours most hotels practice. Personalised service is expected by guests and whilst it may perhaps have previously been an advantage for those paying a premium, the price point now is largely irrelevant. On its most basic level, personalised service makes people feel special and few people will admit to not wanting that.

However, personal service doesn’t replace poor service, or the malaise brought on by slow service. Consumers have extremely high expectations and our threshold for quality being impacted by any personalisation ‘add-on’ is low. Companies who miss that point and focus on one over the other are missing the point – the reintroduction of staffed checkouts in some supermarkets is testament to that sentiment.

Companies have taken steps to progress from personalisation to customisation (often on a mass level) to differentiate themselves from competitors – and more importantly learn what makes their customer tick.

The lure as a child on a school trip of a giant pencil or fridge magnet bearing one’s name hasn’t really dissipated for many (though I very quickly became accustomed to row upon row of Sharons, Shelleys and Sarahs). Owning a product that is inherently ‘yours’ and therefore stands apart from other peoples, is valuable. For every Instagram post offering the chance to purchase an entire #ootd, there are hundreds of thousands of others showcasing ‘one-of-a-kind’ items – anything from clothes, shoes and cars.

It’s the human dilemma of wanting to fit in, but also wanting to stand out – a mindset a famous sports brand used to develop personalised trainers. Giving shoppers the chance to add a personal touch to a product has also given them enormous insight into what people want (perhaps we’re not as individual as we like to think), with execs using this to understand what colours and colour combinations were popular where in the US, and then release such colour combinations in stores where they’re most popular.

Personalisation and customisation have huge value to businesses. Done well they help to create advocates, draw customers away from competitors and deliver enormous customer insight. How that personalisation and customisation is communicated is also very important. Consumers need to be clear on what is being offered and actually why it’s of benefit to them. There is an argument too for companies to be open and transparent about the benefits to them of personalising their offering i.e. it makes it better for all users in the long term.

As we continue to be bombarded with choice throughout our everyday lives, the mentality of sticking with ‘what you know and like’ frankly becomes more prevalent rather than less – but it appears that if there is chance to nuance that habit, all the better. For both companies and consumers.

Written by: Shauna McCarthy, Associate Director at Edelman

The Road to Paris: 21 Weeks to COP21

Energy, Government Affairs, Technology

COP21, Paris is almost upon us. 21 weeks from now, following an intense 12 days of negotiation, we will find out whether world leaders will have met their goal to deliver a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2C.

COP21, Paris is almost upon us. Whilst the previous success of the long-running UN climate change negotiations is debatable, there is great expectation that the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, will succeed.

21 weeks from now, following an intense 12 days of negotiations, we will find out whether world leaders have met their goal to deliver a new global agreement that will keep global warming below 2°C.

Most of the large emitting territories, including the EU, US and China have now submitted their (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)) pledges to reduce carbon emissions beyond 2020.  Most experts agree that the INDC pledges in their totality will not be enough to stay below 2°C by the end of the decade; making it imperative that the Paris agreement includes a system for countries to ratchet up their emissions cuts in future.

Whatever the outcome of COP21, the direction of travel is towards increased carbon constraints. Thought leaders such as The New Climate Economy have forcefully asserted the case for public and private organisations to seize the opportunities of the low carbon economy. Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has called the INDCs “investment prospectuses”; providing the certainty organisations need to invest in the low carbon economy. Now is a crucial moment for cleantech innovators to be seen to be providing the big, commercially-viable ideas the global economy needs to transition into a prosperous, resilient, low carbon future.

Edelman has partnered with global collaboration platform, Hub Culture to create ‘The Paris Innovation Pavilion’ at COP21. The Pavilion provides a Paris-based focal point, from which organisations can be an active participant in the COP21 debate, including:

  • A series of events
  • Private dinners and networking
  • Social media studio
  • Display area for climate-related innovation / product placement
  • Working and collaboration space for execs and stakeholders
  • A real-time news room service to respond and generate media opportunities

For further information, please contact: Nick Hay, Director, Cleantech, Edelman

Image by Le Centre d’Information sur l’Eau (Flickr: cop21) [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr Creative Commons

Written by: Nick Hay, Director at Edelman

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