Roses are Red, Violets are Bleurghh…


Rather than falling back on ‘be mine’ again this year, mineral water brand Evian wanted consumers to avoid Valentine’s Day clichés altogether with its ‘I Love You Like’ campaign, a multi-channel effort to simultaneously push its live young philosophy.

From 5 to 14 February, consumers who tweeted @evianwater or @evian_uk using the hashtag #ILoveYouLike received a response with an alternative Valentine’s message such as ‘I love you like Robin secretly loves Batman,’ or my personal favourite, “I love you like a granny loves a cheeky pinch,” along with encouragement to share the love with their followers.

Fans were later encouraged to share suggestions of how to complete the sentence on Facebook for a chance to win Valentine’s Day prizes. The competition ran on a number of its local Facebook channels, including the UK, France, and the US, with the best suggestions shared on the brand’s global channels. In addition, content was shared on Evian’s global Facebook and Pinterest pages, as well as photographic content specifically for Instagram with the ‘I Love You Like’ theme.

Evian’s live young values are all about encouraging consumers to take a playful and fresh look at things, which this campaign reflects perfectly. People are often reluctant to get caught up in the usual Valentine’s Day clichés and this campaign encourages them to have some fun with their loved ones instead.

Setting a great example of how to utilise a number of Social Media channels, the luxury water company achieved 187,000 Twitter impressions in the week before the campaign launched. An estimated 1.2 million impressions were reached in its first 48 hours as a result of about 200 Twitter messages.



Opening of the Mark Group’s ECO house


I was recently at the opening of the Mark Group’s ECO House at the University of Nottingham. The house is the latest of seven energy-efficient homes built on the university campus to research the design, construction and performance-in-use of low energy homes. All the houses are situated along the appropriately name Green Close.

The opening of the Mark Group ECO house was timely. Rising energy costs are driving demand for more energy efficient homes. This weeks announcement by energy company British Gas that it will be increasing energy prices by over 10% follows last week’s 8.2% increase from energy company SSE. Other energy suppliers are expected to announce similar price increases in the coming weeks. These steep increases in energy prices will, without doubt, focus customers’ attention on ways of reducing their energy usage.

In addition to saving occupants money, improving the energy efficiency of homes is good for the environment. Housing is responsible for 27% of the UK’s carbon emissions. The Government has committed the UK to reducing its carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. If this target is to be met, both new and existing homes will have to be significantly more energy efficient.

The most effective way of helping home owners save money, do their bit for the environment and, ultimately, to live more comfortably, is to install energy-saving and even energy generating products.

But which products offer home owners the biggest bang for their buck? The answer is not as straight forward as it might first appear. Manufacturers often make performance claims for their products based on tests carried out in perfect laboratory conditions. In reality the situation is far more complicated; often homes are fitted with several different energy saving measures that need to work both individually and collectively to produce an energy efficient solution.

No amount of laboratory testing, however, can account for the way people use their homes. The problem is people do not always use energy efficient products in the way the manufacturer intended. Take the example of low energy light bulbs: when these were first introduced they took so long to reach full brightness that people left them switched on for far longer than they would have done if a ‘normal’ bulb had been fitted. this is where my visit to the University of Nottingham becomes relevant.

The Mark Group ECO house is a three-story, four bedroom home. It has been constructed as a retrofit project to demonstrate the potential impact of fitting energy efficiency measures and technologies to the social housing sector. Twelve energy efficiency technologies have been installed. These include: phase change materials incorporated into plasterboard, external wall insulation, solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, heat recovery ventilation and an air source heat pump. The building includes a sophisticated monitoring and control system to gather performance data from the products in use.

The real value of this project is that the dwellings on Green Close are living laboratories, used by the University to investigate the link between occupant behaviour and energy consumption. To enable this to happen, students and families live in houses so that their interaction with the homes and energy saving technologies can be studied and monitored. This provides much more realistic performance data for the innovative technologies installed in the dwellings.

It is only by developing and monitoring homes in use that we can educate designers and specifiers in the effective use and application of how low energy technologies. it is important work if we are to reduce carbon emissions to a level that will help mitigate global warming. Equally importantly, these low energy solutions will benefit society by establishing solutions that will help reduce the number of people in fuel poverty. I look forward to finding out whether the technologies installed in the Mark Group’s ECO house will help contribute to this solution.

Housing Market Intelligence


Addressing delegates, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP, gives his keynote speech.

Last week I attended the housing market intelligence conference – organised by Housebuilder magazine – to hear from ‘the experts’ how the sector is addressing Britain’s housing shortage.

The usual suspects came up – planning, house prices, access to finance and the taboo of land-banking. Danny Alexander MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, announced a new government policy entitled “the right to contest scheme”. To be launched next month, this will give people the chance to contest public sector-owned land they believe could be put to better use.

“We have done our best to fix the problems [holding up house building] and we will continue to do so,” the minster said. “40% of potential brownfield land is held by the public sector be it at local or national level. I believe we should make the land available.”

He threw down the gauntlet to those seeking land to build on to convince ministers they can use such sites in a way which provides greater economic growth. “If you can use land in a way better for economic growth then we will sell it to you,” he said.

“No one can dispute there is a housing crisis in this country,” Stewart Baseley, executive chairman to the Home Builders Federation, said in his opening speech. But he described the Government’s help to buy scheme as a “game changer”.

He said that 750 builders had already registered to take part and suggested a return to “higher but sensible mortgages” would ease pressures across the whole sector as a knock-on effect would relieve pressure on social and rental markets.

He praised the focus given to housing by the three main political parties and vowed to work with the parties to help them develop housing policies for manifestos ahead of the 2015 General Election.

The opposition were also in attendance alongside the great and the good of the housing sector.

Labour’s shadow local government secretary, Hillary Benn, acknowledged an upturn in house building but spoke of the need for more to be done to boost the affordable homes market.

He expressed support for the Royal Town and Planning Institute’s proposal that a register be set up to record land that developers own or have options on.

“[Labour] will look at enhancing the role local authorities can play in unlocking land,” he added. “I also agree more public land needs to be made available to build more homes.”

The event was deemed a great success by all those who I spoke with. Great venue, great speakers and an interesting debate which raged on well after we left London’s British Museum. I look forward to attending next year.

The Face of Product Search


Over the last few years the percentage of construction industry professionals using search engines to source product information has shown a dramatic decline: from 66% in 2011 to just 25% this year.

This is just one of the findings from the most recent Construction Media Index survey, sponsored by Ridgemount PR: the only independent survey of the sector to examine all information sources.

This year’s survey of 550 industry professionals shows an increasing fragmentation of information resources with significant increases in the use of social media (particularly Twitter) and further decline in the popularity of printed journals. Not surprisingly, the use of smart phones and tablets is on the increase, although most of us remain wedded to our PCs for thew majority of time at work. Read More

We Love Construction!


It’s that dinner party conversation:

“What do you do?”

“I own a PR agency.”
“Really, how interesting – what sort of clients do you work with?”
“Construction: blocks, cables, insulation, timber, that sort of thing.”

Perplexed silence and a change of subject.

I simply do not understand it. Construction is GREAT. It matters. Would these dinner party guests be more impressed if I was working on a fizzy drinks brand, perhaps a luxury hotel or what about working with a musician?

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