Happy Holidays from the Horse & Cart family!

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We wish you a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year from the Horse & Cart family!

It’s been a fun and eventful year for us at Horse & Cart and we thought what better way to express it than that with a mash up of miscellany.

With no intention of dipping into that dangerous territory called “year in review”, we thought we’d highlight a few. It would be a big year for any company that started with one name, in one office, moved and rebranded. Fortunately, our infrastructure largely constitutes laptop-on-a-table-and-a-chair. We’re also a branding company, so reinventing ourselves as Horse & Cart was squarely in our wheel house. We love this client (Horse & Cart) btw, and they seem to have nothing but glowing things to say!

With the big stuff in play we also had a parade of challenges big, small and enormous including our very first US network TV ad. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, (and it’s the very soul and spirit of Horse & Cart), is that it’s our extended team of colleagues and clients that make the magic happen. None of it would be possible without you, and we tip our hats, hoist our glasses and raise a cheer to you for a fantastic year.

As we look forward to 2015, we hope you all enjoy a warm, wonderful and restful holiday with the people who matter most, and take some time to appreciate yourselves and all your hard work and success.

As a small token of our thanks to everyone in our growing network of clients and partners, we give you this bit of one page love and a little link to our light and lovely holiday card “mini year in review”. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

All the best in 2015!

- The Horse & Cart Family

This year, “say it with socks”

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William is not an Artist, nor a stylist but by watching him, he grabs your attention. Everyone is seduced by his charm. They are impressed by his confidence.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 10.42.36 AMA few months ago Brendan and I attended UX Camp Ottawa. On the first day we met two incredible designers and entrepreneurs, Francois Boisvert and Sylvain St-Germain, founders of Socks by William. Organizers of the event had commissioned Socks by William to produce custom socks for the event to be gifted to each attendee. They had also set up a booth at the event where they were showcasing their collections.

As luck would have it, Brendan and I had the opportunity to share food and drink with the “men behind the socks” at a funky wood clad bistro-brasserie in Vieux Hull called Gainsbourg. After a few drinks and a few prefunctory “Sock, Sock jokes“,  Francois and Sylvain invited us to share our ideas on how we might help them take their business to the next level. The rest is, as they say…history in the making!

Objective:

Pop up shop December 11th at Java U on Rue McGill.

Pop up shop December 11th at Java U on Rue McGill.

Working in collaboration with our two “Socksperts” our initial mandate was a complete look and feel re-fresh of their Shopify site geared specifically to hit Black Friday and close our 2014 in style. Our Black Friday / Holiday campaign was all about increasing engagement online and off. While working in paraleel on physical and social channels we did deep POS market testing at a lovingly designed pop up shop in Old Montreal and invited the influencer, fashion bloggers and host of prominent sock fans.

 

Challenge:

The challenge for our creative team was to create a visual story different from other sock designers while still adhering to time-honoured industry standards. To start things off, we needed to take Francois’ and Sylvians’ initial inspirations for the ten designs and further develop them into concise but compelling stories. As you’ll see on the site, and beyond the sheer beauty of the designs are the prominent artists behind them and story they tell through their choices of patterns and colour.  The ever popular Tour de France is a great example:

tdf-social-story

We designed a series of these graphics (In French and English) for Facebook and Instagram.

In order to accomplish this task we needed to get super creative and then a little bit more. All told, the H&C team spent triple digit hours in the boardroom cultivating and developing ideas.

The next big challenge came with the online shopping experience. We knew we wanted to do something different. We decided to create a continuously scrolling story that drew the user through the – pardon the pun – thread of the collection. With custom photography and a complete content re-fresh, we were able to successfully engage with the consumer through beautifully designed experience of beautifully designed products. And it seemed our work paid off. Within the first week of our launch of the campaign, three of the ten designs were sold out.

Moving into 2015, Socks by William has tasked us to expand their retail program, design new stories around each collection and continue to help grow their online community.

Technology:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 9.29.39 AMWe custom designed and coded a responsive multilingual Shopify theme using original design concepts, photography, and content.

Check it out and tell us what you think.

Sainsbury - Christmas is for Sharing

Video of the Week – Sainsbury makes us remember that Christmas is for Sharing.

Sainsbury’s is the third largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom. For this upcoming Christmas, they have released a special commercial. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, the retailers partnered up with The Royal British Legion to make a commercial based on true events that occurred in December 1914.

The ad takes place in December 1914, just four months after the beginning of WWI. The movement of the war is already over. Soldiers are now entrenched and spend most of their time hiding and sleeping in the mud. But one event changed the first months of the war. According to historical reports, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, soldiers on the Western front from Germany, the British Empire and France made an unofficial truce where they could meet in No Man’s Land, exchange souvenirs and small presents, sing songs and even play football – or soccer as you call it in North America.

In early December, soldiers from both sides stopped the fighting for a short while to rest and recover their dead. In some areas, they even exchanged conversations. Mid-December, German soldiers started to decorate their trenches with candles and small Christmas trees and ended by singing Christmas carol on the 24th – such as “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree) and “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (Silent Night). British and French soldiers sang these songs in their language in response which led to an uncommon moment of peace.

This moment is well-known and even led to a few movies. The ad by Sainsbury’s used information about the “Christmas truce” event and partnered with the Royal British Legion, to make this ad as precise and real as possible.

This ad depicts a true and emotional event that happened 100 years ago. Even if the Great War was one of the deadliest wars with 16 million dead, human behaviour and sympathy led people to make a short truce to exchange with an enemy that they never saw and get back their dead to give them a proper burial instead of a mortar hole in No Man’s Land.

This video relies on something that everyone can do, even the men at war: share. It doesn’t matter your religion, your gender, or your race – sharing is one thing that we can all do at least for Christmas. The chocolate bar featured in the 3-minute film is available in every Sainsbury’s for £1 and all profits will be donated to The Royal British Legion.

To me, this ad is almost a documentary to educate younger people about that period of history and to make everyone remember that Christmas is about sharing no matter what the circumstances. You have one month to keep that in mind!

Harrods - The Land of Make Believe

Video of the Week – Harrods shows the beauty of turning the lights on

Today’s Video of the Week, features one of the most iconic stores in England, Harrods, a former branch of House of Fraser that features on yesterday’s Bad Marketing. This commercial was released last month and didn’t have the same success as Sainsbury’s or John Lewis, but it is nonetheless a fantastic commercial that you have to watch.

Harrods is an upmarket department store located in Knightsbridge, London. It has over 1 million sq ft (90,000m2) of selling space which makes it the biggest department store in Europe. Every year, for the Holiday Season, they dress up the store to wow everyone – from children to grandparents..

This year, to illustrate the transformation for this festive time, they launched a commercial entitled “The Land of Make Believe – A Little Christmas Tail”. It is the first animated film for Harrods that is being use for Christmas.

It features little mice that are getting everything ready for Christmas. They carry gifts and candy canes around a big Christmas tree. One of them, called Peter Pumpernickel would like to help everyone. Unfortunately, the little mouse is too small to help and that makes him very sad. So he decided to quietly slip away so as not to bother his pals.

When Santa arrives, he sees that everyone is working well, but he notices that Peter isn’t there. Once he finds him, he finds a special job for Peter to do, where his small size will be a benefit. Santa carefully picks him up and lifts him to a little hole, that only Peter could fit through. As a result, Peter is able to fix the lights and light up all of Harrods in time for Christmas.

According to Deborah Bee, Director of Creative Marketing at Harrods, “Christmas at Harrods is an enchanting time for everyone. The Land of Make Believe brings the festive magic of the store to life, encouraging Londoners to enjoy Harrods as the ultimate Christmas destination; it’s perfect for the whole family.” And she knows what she’s talking about. Harrods is one of the most-visited places in London by tourists and especially during the holidays. During November and December, Harrods become a magical place that gives everyone stars in their eyes and smiles on their faces.

I couldn’t think of a better story to explain how these lights are turning on for Christmas. A beautifully-animated video that makes everyone happy and that needs to be shared.

*Have a great holiday season everyone*

House of Fraser - Be You No Matter Who This Christmas

Bad Marketing – House of Fraser Would Like You to Fall Asleep This Christmas

After last week’s extremely cheesy and sad commercial from Iceland (an ad that could have been screened in July) we have another contender with House of Fraser. To those who know House of Fraser, they have significantly different target markets. House of Fraser is a London-based department store that was created in 1849 by Hugh Fraser and James Arthur in Glasgow, Scotland.

You might know one of it’s competitors: London-based department stores, Harrods. The interesting fact is that, in 1959, House of Fraser bought Harrods. Mohamed Al-Fayed bought House of Fraser in 1985 and separated the two companies in 1994 by putting House of Fraser on the stock exchange and keeping Harrods under his ownership.

House of Fraser has always been quite a big name in the retail industry in the UK. With almost 60 stores, it makes more than one £billion in revenue each year. Earlier this decade, they had one of the fastest growing websites in the UK with comprising of 11% of the group’s sales. Upon hearing that, you might think that their Christmas campaign could be as big and beautiful as last year’s John Lewis one…

Well, it is not. Not even close.

This commercial features 3 young models, 2 young women and a young man that are asked some random questions about Christmas, such as “Best gift you ever received?”, “Hardeest present to shop for?” or “What do you give to a person who has everything?” Probably every question we are constantly being asked. Then, the music kicks in and you see the models in action, posing and so on. Oh, are you bored? So am I!

A bit after, you see the the male model with his grandmother, explaining that he chose to give her a gift, while the 2 girls chose to give gifts to their significant others. You can therefore appreciate their reaction while the tagline “Be You No Matter Who This Christmas” appears.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klr2T_atUlU

What can I say apart the fact that it is a terrible commercial? I truly can’t believe how uninspired and uncreative you have to be to make this. It makes you yawn like it was almost midnight on the 24th… Maybe you should put this ad on repeat to help your kids fall asleep on Christmas Eve?!

I really don’t get the point of showing models giving gifts to their loved ones. Don’t we already know that they are people who have a life, human interactions and feelings? We know that these people aren’t just a picture. You don’t need to feature them in a commercial to make us feel close to them.

For such a company, it is a pity that they could make such a thing and this is why it features on today’s Bad Marketing.

Fun Friday Post – Hail to the Cookie Baby, It’s National Cookie Day!

“Me proclaim today National Cookie Day” – Cookie Monster

As luck would have it today is National Cookie Day! According to the Muppet Wiki it is a minor holiday that celebrates cookies in all their sugary glory.

A bit of history

Back in 1980 Random House published “The Sesame Street Dictionary“. In this book Cookie Monster playfully declares a National Cookie Day to celebrate his beloved addiction, however no date was ever specified.

In the summer of 1987 Matt Nader president of the Blue Chip Cookie Company, a small cookie company based out of San Francisco, told the LA Times it was time for a National Cookie Day, “It’s just like having  National Secretaries Day … It will just be a fun thing to do“.

So there you have it … sort of … either way we’re happy to indulge cookies this day or any day for that matter. Here are some of our favourite cookie memes etc.

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And I’ll leave you with this classic in honour of the king!

Giving Tuesday and a new approach to donating online

Giving Tuesday

Nothing like a bright, brisk, BITTERLY FREEEEEEZING COLD day to remind you that some people may not be enjoying such a cosy christmas this year.  Just as Montreal delivers its first belting blast of cold, a stalwart network of charities across town are hoping that today, Giving Tuesday, will make a difference.

It’s heartening to see how many companies are taking up the cause. CIBC’s simple Ret-tweet=$1 is bang on. I hope it goes INSANELY VIRAL….;)

NOTE: Google, who seems never to miss a day with its fun and frivolous dedications is strangely absent.

One of the big challenges charities face, beyond the obvious hurdles of being heard over the racket, is handling the cost of giving itself. Believe it or not this represents a considerable share of their administrative costs. You’ve got to spend money to make money, right? Right! And once the estimated 50% of their budgets that go to fundraisers is spent, they’re squeezed just a little but more by the credit card companies and growing number of “philanthropic startups” that help handle payments and other stuff. That generally amounts to an additional 5-7% of donated dollars NOT going to those in need.

It’s a bad old story. And it’s one of the reasons many people cite for not wanting to give through organizations.

Take Ed Norton’s Crowdrise concept. Great initiative right? Well, let’s a take a closer look at their pricing model.

If you go straight to their pricing page, it looks pretty much the same as any of the others, with three tiers of transactional costs ranging from 5% in the basic “FREE” plan to the 3% all bells and whistles “Royale” plan (nice name, that one), that costs $199 per month (with an annual commitment paid upfront). Oh, yeah and in the spirit of doubling down, as a Crowdrise donor you are asked to make your own contribution to their effort through the checkout process suggesting that the charity hasn’t already paid.

It’s the same basic concept employed by Classy.org but classy isn’t afraid to go Royale with Cheese, imposing a sliding per transaction fee from 5% to 2% and then 1% as you enter a monthly fee structure with them that starts at a $499/mo and goes up to a whopping $1,999/mo. But hey, that gives all sorts of awesome web integration, banking and admin options and multiple sub domains!

No one would blame the tech industry for being entrepreneurial but there’s a big difference between leveraging technology for good, and being predatory. These models, even if they can argue some machiavellian case for raising more money in the aggregate, are simply not doing charities any favours.

As you may have guessed, I am building up to a point here, but before I make it I want to provide full disclosure. As I present what would seem to be the antidote to this problem, and a possible game changing alternative, namely Ensemble.co happens to be a Horse & Cart client.

The brain child of Jason Dominique, Ensemble.co not only turns the whole online charitable giving concept on its head. It also takes what might have been considered a suicidal business model and makes it one of the most attractive aspects of it for charities and donors alike.

NOTE TO READERS: Ensemble is currently signing on charities to it’s service. As such its donor functions are not fully activated. If you would like to help the Ensemble cause, please urge your favourite charity to claim its free page on the site. 

Instead of engaging charities as clients, Ensemble speaks directly to the donor and their desire for fair and transparent pricing. It’s so transparent in fact that the company bravely commits to a model that is now and forever 100% free to charities. Hand in hand, Ensemble does a great job of empowering donors. In their words:

“Because a gift isn’t a gift if it isn’t free. This simple, immutable principle is the reason Ensemble exists, but we can’t do it alone. Collective Responsibility empowers donors to take on the cost of giving and ensure that their gifts of charity really and truly are gifts.”

Ensemble

Ensemble.co’s pricing page

Of course the credit card fees are inescapable. But what if the credit companies could get on board and actually stop charging transactional fees for charitable donations? Shouldn’t they be doing this already?

Happy Giving Tuesday, and here’s hoping this season we all find a way too help out and make life a little better for the people around us.