D.O.G. No. 3: Breaking out the plastic

Just as it is in America, credit cards are used in England as a quick and easy way to “break the bank.”

I have noticed, though, that some of the card machines in certain stores or restaurants are different from those in the States. Often when I pull out a “swipe” at the register, the cashier needs to see my card and manually punch in the 16-digit combo.

I feel that I frustrate the cashiers sometimes because they have to do this, and I can imagine why. I know lots of cards outside the U.S. have a chip within the plastic, which actually protects your account information better and is easier to use. Hopefully America will be in making the switch in the next few years.

I’m afraid at times to pay for meals with paper pounds because some places in London only accept cash. Also, despite my best efforts to keep my purse covered and close at all times, I know that London is a big city with big opportunities for theft, so I am wary of keeping a lot of cash on my person anyway.

So punch those numbers in, Mr. Cashier. At least I’m a proper tourist and spending money in your country.

(And don’t worry, Mom and Dad. I haven’t actually broken the bank. Yet.)

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Reflection Paper No. 1: Jeremy Hildreth and Thrilling Cities

An export’s place of origin is the hidden brand asset of the 21st century, according to Jeremy Hildreth, Thrilling Cities co-founder  and co-author of Brand America.

Thrilling Cities markets itself as the “only exclusively place-oriented branding and creative agency in the world,” working with different media to promote brands based on where they are made and other aspects of a place that attract people to a particular region.

Place branding was one of the major topics Hildreth addressed during his visit to our class this Wednesday. Hildreth proposed the idea of six branding techniques that his company works with when promoting a city or product. These six included direct advertisements that draw visitors, tactical communications, “piggy backing” communications, policy changes, dramatic or symbolic actions, and place of origin labeling.

One example of Thrilling Cities’ use of direct ads and tactical communications was the company’s campaign for the London Tourism Board. Thrilling Cities was faced with the challenge of promoting the largest city in Europe and creating an identity for London that would break perceptions and encourage people to visit. Hildreth said one of the guiding principles of place branding is that if people understand a place better, they will like it better.

The “Visit London” campaign aimed to do this and used traditional advertising media such as posters, social media and freebies, while using the ads to acknowledge certain aspects about London that are unique to the city. The particular claim that “It rains more in Rome,” was especially successful because it was both direct and used researched data to negate London’s rainy stigma.

Credit: www.thrillingcities.com
Credit: http://www.thrillingcities.com

Hildreth also spoke about the company’s publicity campaign for the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Rather than create promotional content that showed the architecture or quality of life of the area, Thrilling Cities aimed to find what made Vilnius stand out from other mid-sized European cities. The answer came with using street gymnasts performing stunts on city buildings and structures through a creatively shot tourism video. This helped identify Vilnius as a vibrant and active place where traditional European charm and modern lifestyles blend harmoniously.

Though the Vilnius campaign “piggy backed” off of the city’s background to show off its cultural oddities, Thrilling Cities’ Mongolian cashmere project focused more on establishing Mongolia as a premier exporter of a highly sought after product.

Hildreth explained that about 40 percent of the world’s cashmere is produced in Mongolia, though the country is not well-known for this fact. Thrilling Cities helped develop the “Mongolian Noble Fibre” designation in an effort to brand Mongolia as a source of quality cashmere. Similar to the theory with the Visit London campaign, the Mongolian cashmere project aimed to help people understand the country as an exporter of cashmere, in turn encouraging people to buy the product because they associate Mongolia as a leader in the cashmere industry.

The argument that the “Made in ____” space is the next great advertisement was fascinating to think about because many of our purchasing decisions are based on an export’s place of origin. Some people are more prone to buy a German car than others because they have been led to believe through strategic advertisement that the country’s automotive technology is superior to another country’s product. Other customers are drawn more to apparel designs that have names and logos associated with an Italian background because that country is considered to be a leader in the fashion world.

 

D.O.G. No. 2: Searching for petrol

One of the best things about visiting London is that it is an incredibly easy city to travel in. Between the walking and using the Tube, you pretty much have the city at your fingertips.

Something I did notice, though, is the lack of gas stations in town. After three full days in London, I have yet to spy one anywhere.

At first this made a lot of sense to me since most people don’t drive as they do back home. I figured I was just used to seeing a gas station on every street corner back in America.

This would be valid reasoning except for the fact that there are a lot of cars in London. The narrow streets are filled with black cabs, tour buses and other European vehicles zooming and merging across lanes that seem tight for a bicycle let alone a compact car.

(As a side note, some streets in London have lanes dedicated to taxi use!)

Surely this meant that there had to be gas stations somewhere in London, even if I can’t find them. I did a little research and found out that in the past 40 years, about 30,000 petrol stations, or forecourts as they are also called in the U.K., have closed across the country, leaving about 8,600 stations left.

This has forced a lot of residents to commute to find the cheapest petrol since a lot of these stations use competitive pricing because of product’s scarcity. According to BBC News’ fuel price calculator, the average price for unleaded petrol is about £1.30 per liter (In dollars, that is about $2.20).

A small car here could probably hold about 40 liters, which amounts to £52, or $88.30! That’s pretty expensive.

Should I have been an Englishwoman, I think I would stick to the underground.

 

D.O.G. No. 1: Currency confusion

After spending a stressful first day trying to figure out how to work the ATMs abroad, I finally managed to get some pounds through the machine on Regent’s campus (after a quick phone call to Wells Fargo’s international customer service).

It was a huge relief to know I had the right money in my purse, and for the rest of Sunday I was satisfied in knowing I wasn’t “poor” in London. The next step, though, was actually paying with my newfound pounds.

Pounds are shorter, wider and more colorful than U.S. dollars. This is meant to help people tell the difference among the bills, but I am so accustomed to looking in the corners for numerical value that the color coding is lost on me. I suspect it will take me a little while to determine what color equals what value.

British pounds: Available in Technicolor
British pounds: Available in Technicolor

The coins are another story, though. One and two pounds are minted as coins rather than bills, so sometimes they get mixed up with my pence coinage. Much like the bills with color, pounds in coins differ in thickness, which will also take some time for me to adjust.

For the meantime, I will continue to play “squint and guess” to try to figure out what value I’m handing to the cashier.

Also, everything has the Queen on it. They do a good job though of representing other famous Brits on the bills, like Charles Darwin, to keep things interesting.

Preparing to study abroad in England

As the last few days of the work week wind down, I find myself becoming incredibly eager to embark on my first study abroad experience to England. I am looking forward to getting the chance to finally travel outside of the country but also get the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds.

Other than a few Girl Scout trips to Canada when I was younger, I have never been outside of the United States, and certainly not for such an extended period of time. I heard several horror stories from friends who had studied abroad about how long they had to wait to receive their passports, but mine processed in a quick three weeks.

My main concern is not flying to England, though, but rather how to navigate the city once I get there! My city transit experience is limited to a few rides on the Metro in Washington, D.C., back in 2009, so hopefully navigating the Tube in London will be as easy as I’ve heard it is. I’m also a little concerned about understanding the conversion of the U.S. dollar to the British pound, but I am confident that I will figure it out after my first few days abroad.

I am a part-time intern in the office of marketing and public relations for the city of Stillwater, so I have spent most of my time in Oklahoma the past three years. The weeks leading up to my trip consisted of a short trip home to Waco, Texas, to visit my family, figuring out what to pack and trying to finish all of my marketing campaign projects before I fly off to learn about how international companies market themselves to a global audience!

Sometime before I leave tomorrow I will have convinced myself that I can't bring nine pairs of shoes to Europe.
Sometime before I leave tomorrow I will convince myself that I can’t bring nine pairs of shoes to Europe.

Having learned about public outreach and branding on the local level, I am excited to shift gears and explore how organizations do this on an international scale. I hope this opportunity also prepares me for international travel in the future should I have a career that might send me abroad. I also want to gain an appreciation for other cultures during this trip and an understanding of the United States’ influence in other regions of the world.