You would have to have been living somewhere dark, cold and cave-like not to notice that the literary world has been frantic with the release of E L James’ debut novel 50 Shades of Grey, some 500 pages of erotica with little redeeming merit (critics have commented that Twilight “looks like Shakespeare by comparison”). As a budding writer and, hopefully, future author myself, 50 Shades of Grey and its massive success presents me with a moral dilemma. Should I admire her or resent her for turning shameless fan fiction into a seven-figure contract with Vintage Books?
Whether we like it or not, the 50 Shades trilogy (yes, she’s written more) is certainly an example of faultless marketing. James originally self-published her work as an e-book before sales skyrocketed and she was taken up by publishers. Her use of social media was extensive. Not only is she making an incomprehensible amount, but many other companies are also experiencing a boom in business, such as hotels and restaurants featured in the book. This also includes Ruta Sepetys, author of the young adult novel Between Shades of Gray which, a little more admirably, documents the life of a Lithuanian teenager in one of Stalin’s work camps (though I suppose this particular success is bittersweet).
Openforum.com has published an article stating that we can all learn 6 valuable business lessons from 50 Shades of Grey. Most of them are heartbreaking. Stealing other people’s ideas is absolutely fine, apparently, and your book doesn’t need to be perfect before you publish it and make millions (which is at least reassuring).
Much as making millions would be lovely, the writer and perfectionist deep inside me doth still protest. Maybe we should leave the erotica to James and stick with creating good quality copy and images for causes such as Macmillan. In other news, while 50 Shades of Grey flies from the shelves, publishing house GraphicDesign& has invited 70 designers to re-interpret the first page of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Now that’s more like it.
As a lover of fancy fonts and such like, I was captivated by the paper brand Conqueror’s recent Typography Games Competition (and slightly miffed I hadn’t seen it early enough to enter). Inspired by the fast-approaching 2012 London Olympic Games, participants were invited to create their own typographic poster containing the phrase ‘It’s not what you win, but how you conquer it’. The so-called gold medalist would get the chance to travel to London and see an Olympic event for themselves.
Of course, lots of entries incorporated fairly predictable imagery – medals, athletes, and London landmarks (mainly Big Ben) – but others were far more innovative, using (to name but two) vintage Olympic photographs and a very different London Underground map. The winning entry, pictured, was created by South African participant Graeme Gauld and features twenty-two cute little guards in their bear-skinned hats performing various Olympic activities.
All medal-winning entries are well worth a look, showcasing the immense power of words and graphics when they work together seamlessly.
The Queen’s Jubilee is so close that you can smell it. As a result, we get a stonking long weekend, but we also get the pleasure of seeing lots of brands trying to capitalise on the most tenuous of royal tie-ins.
However, one brand that’s bucked this trend and done a cracking job of coming up with an innovative Jubilee-based social media campaign is Harrods. They ran a competition on Pinterest for people to design a Jubilee display for one of the store’s world-famous windows. Entrants created Pinterest moodboards with images that they felt represented the right royal celebration, then submitted them via Twitter, using the hashtag #HarrodsWindows. Fans of the Harrods Facebook page then voted for the winner. It created a real buzz on all three social platforms.
Not only was a great way of involving their customers in their brand and trusting them to pick the best entry, but it was also a really creative use of Pinterest – a social platform that, so far, very few brands have known what to do with.
And the winning window? Well, it looks fit for a queen.
On 20 June, global leaders will come together to discuss the state of the planet in the United Nations earth Summit in Rio. In the run up to the event, WWF have launched Earth Book 2012, an ambitious digital campaign which aims to stand up for the planet and makes nature-lovers’ voices heard.
Earth Book is essentially one big, collaborative online story book encouraging people to share their experiences of the natural world. The charity hopes that contributors will fill the book with stories of the things we all take for granted in the natural world, the things we cherish and the things we desperately want to protect for generations to come. Up until 20 June you can write in it, draw in it or upload your fave wildlife snaps in it and celebrate everything from biodiversity to baboons and even Bill Oddie (the legendary twitcher has a blog on there).
While it’s a much more time-consuming for supporters to get involved than, say, tweeting something or ‘liking’ something on Facebook, it’s a really fantastic way to make them truly engaged and valued. It’s also beautifully designed and easy to navigate, so why not take a look?
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