Go Forth! Mercurylab in London (Part One)

July 25 2014

Hello all

This summer Mercurylab is working (and playing) in London. Since opening our new studio in Battersea last year, we've slowly but surely been building up our brand in the mother country (as they say). For the next couple of months, we'll be keeping this blog up-to-date on our findings and observations, what we're up to, and what we're thinking, seeing and enjoying. Oh, and what we’re working on!

In the time we've been here thus far, we've spotted some pretty neat things. At 221b Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes, Dr, Watson, and studio manager Kyrie on the case (left); a magic alleyway, off Kensington Church Street – this is how they live in tony Holland Park (middle); and a 
mysterious painting through a window in the village of Victoria Park (right). I’m so curious to know the who and why of the woman in that painting – it’s so naïve, and very beautiful, situated in its formal red room.

Cool "now" brand Nuji may need to rethink their billboard locations.

While walking down the streets we saw this advert for Nuji, super chic and trendy British-bred website. Nuji allows users to go internet window shopping, and then add all their findings to one massive and organised wish list. Seeing this vibrant billboard surrounded by industrial waste creates a major brand disconnect. "Trending fashion" and "lifestyle products" is a hard sell when the face of your product is popping out of a garbage bin!

Make sure to stop by every week and catch up with our British escapades. There are countless opportunities for beauty, life, trends, and brand analysis. You just have to know where and what to look for!

XO Beth

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Starbucks, Beta Testing and Food Options

April 03 2014

I was recently in Seattle, Washington, home of Starbucks. Seattle and environs is where they test all of their new concepts and expansion ideas.

They have been focused for quite some time on their efforts to expand into the world of tea with their Tevana Café and website, something I wrote about a while ago. They also purchased a San Francisco-based bakery called La Boulange. I have heard from interviewing Starbucks’ employees that La Boulange has turned out to be a big bust, so that as a result, the company is rethinking their baked good strategy yet again. My old client, Head Cookie Baker Jon Chazen from DoughRayMe, had told me that Starbucks used to purchase and sell day day-old baked goods back in the day, something that has never been denied outright by Starbucks spokespeople or employees. Additionally, they are also trying to grab some more market share in the evenings, trying to attract the younger, typical wine bar audience for a menu of small plates and a glass of wine.


I heard on the news last year about a Seattle resident, a woman with two kids, who spent all of 2013 eating every meal at Starbucks. Interestingly enough, because she was eating in Seattle, where Starbucks has so many options, including Evolution Fresh juices and smoothies, she did not gain a pound!

left & right

I’m waiting to see when Starbucks will end the beta testing stage and will begin the national rollout of Teavana and wider distribution of the Evolution line. I’ve thought for a long time that they have a huge missed opportunity in the food and baked goods realm, as their customers are actively seeking a one-stop solution for breakfast, lunch and a light meal early evening. Some folks want a decent savory option, and what about the gluten-free folks? C’mon, Starbucks, feed your starving customers in the rest of the world!

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American Apparel: When Simplicity isn’t So Simple

October 09 2013

American Apparel is a brand well known for its’ pared down, comfortable aesthetic, one that appeals to the young. urban, hipster-chic teens and 20s of America and across the World. Long known for simple basic unisex t-shirts, hoodies and jeans, they have moved into the territory of vintage-inspired disco pants, chiffon blouses and palazzo pants. By bringing more “design” into their clothing, American Apparel has attempted to set themselves apart from their competition -- Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Urban Outfitters. They have been so effective in branding themselves in the mind of the consumer that it will be interesting to see what happens as they move forward in this new vein.

On a political level, American Apparel’s heart has been in the right place (at least from my leftie perspective). The brand is a strongly voiced advocate of LGBT rights, it is committed to environmental protection, and is known for having all of their clothing made in the U.S. without the use of underpaid sweatshops in other countries. That is a big one, as more and more ethical issues arise regarding how the fashion we love and wear is made. American Apparel’s company website also has a list of other ethical causes that they support.

via americanapparel.tumblr.com

This is a brand with some major disconnects despite its success and good heartedness. Despite their ethical chops, the brand has been scrutinized in the past for having overtly provocative advertisements, for not being plus-size friendly, and for their inflated price point, given the quality and lack of originality in the merchandise. In addition, if American Apparel is going to claim a more constructed, designed sensibility, they will need to pull other elements of their brand communications in line. Their window design frequently looks like a cheap mall brand that sells five-dollar T-shirts and ten-dollar parkas. The store merchandising is decidedly barebones as well. It’s certainly not an issue to expand upon a brand’s sensibilities, as Juicy Couture moved very successfully from coveted velour tracksuits into much more cultivated pieces that still retained a high level of comfort. American Apparel might benefit from studying Juicy more closely, as that brand has had all of the elements working in sync since the beginning, and was just sold to Authentic Brands Group for $185 million. Get it together, AA!!

However, American Apparel has come a long way in the message it gives through its brand. What makes American Apparel such a strong brand is their exuberant, precise, and edgy advertisements. American Apparel speaks volumes through their fashion photography. Each advertisement exudes a feeling of the American dream through clothing, in other words the emotion of living your life through these clothes.

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