Who can you trust?

You’d be amazed at all the wild and wonderful thoughts and connections one makes whilst on maternity leave, especially in the quiet hours of the night when most people are sleeping! But those thoughts fade away with the sunrise and ideas turn quickly to the daily grind instead.

But now I have a moment.

This morning i read an interesting article about milk production (Not your grandma’s milk). I know not many people are as interested as I am in the fraud, corruption and lack of integrity of the food industry but, what the article showed was that the milk we are drinking is not what we think it is.

Now, if we cant trust the companies who bring us milk – a wholesome, supposedly pure and healthy drink – then I think we need to reconsider and question just what is happening to our society and our relationships. Who can we trust?

Trust is a powerful human emotion, which has been eroded over the recent past and especially in light of the financial crisis, corporate scandals (Murdoch, BP), government corruption etc.

Increasingly it seems less and less people, brands, corporations, are worthy of our trust. And if they are not worthy of our trust, then are they worthy of our loyalty and expenditure?

On the other hand, brands who we can trust are brands we can love, respect and reward.

So if I was a brand or marketing manager, I’d be very keen on gaining people’s trust through my superior product performance, quality parts or ingredients, intuitive customer service, honest CSR activities and other faces of my brand.

If only things were that simple ;-)


How to get to where you want to go.

I think ‘strategy’ is the most over used word in this industry.  Too often it is misunderstood, and too often people use it inter-changeably with just ‘a thought’.

Good strategy is creative, just like good creative has to be strategic.

Good strategy is a jump from the mundane. It’s based on an idea. It makes a statement about what the brand is up to. Following from this people either buy into the brand or they don’t.

When you think about campaigns like Avis’s ‘we try harder’, or Honda’s ‘power of dreams’ it is very obvious what the brand is up to, the strategy stands out.

Here are some jump starters for writing good communication strategy:

1. Develop an insight or story, and then summarise it as a strategy.

2. Think ‘what is my creative angle on this problem’ what’s the larger than life proposition to the world?

3. Think ‘what is my point of view’ on a subject matter?

4. Work out what it is your brand or product is ‘against’ – what do you oppose?

5. What is the consumer benefit? How do we demonstrate this in the creative?

6. The problem – Great ideas start with big problems. What is the consumer problem you are trying to solve?

Your position – What is your position on the things that the consumer cares about? Show you care about the problem. For example: ‘The campaign was created to communicate the Pampers brand’s philosophy that children perceive the world very differently from adults, even the simplest things are opportunities to learn and experiment, and children should be given the freedom and comfort to do so’

Your promise – The promise is the way in which you (implicitly or explicitly) prove to the consumer your credibility in holding that position and what you intent to do about it. E.g.: ‘Pampers provides comfort to your child so they can be free to experiment’.

The Brand Idea – This is an outward facing crystallisation of the position and promise. It’s the brands point of view ‘Look at the world through the eyes of a child’.

7. What do we want the target market to think, feel, do?

8. What is our unique ownable property? The unique aspect that only our product / service has? It could be a product feature, something inherent in our design. For example:

  • FJ Cruiser’s unique retro look, going back to basics, the type you can use for a long time – product concept is ‘the rebirth of rugged’,
  • Audi’s Vorsprung durch Technik, How can we relate that to the key proposition?
 A brief needs to be built around an idea, and an idea is worthless unless it delivers against a strategy.

Today, good brand strategy is based on mutual benefit, takes into account sustainability. Is transparent and honest.

Till next time, enjoy!


Correcting our regions’ short sightedness.

Correcting our shortsightedness

How often do you hear that a client is pitching its account after a long and successful marriage with its agency (i.e. more than 5 years)? Not very often? Because it doesn’t happen in this region. Clients here are not so loyal.

Actually it’s the psyche of the entire region. There are no loyalties except to those who appear ‘popular’ at a certain point in time. When something is a new fad (e.g. the latest hotel, the newest café, the newest trend), everyone runs to be part of it. But before you know it, the buzz inevitably runs out and people go searching for other new things to latch onto.

In the communication industry, on an individual level (apart from a handful of people who have built their media empires from the oil boom of the past decades and become sort of industry ‘icons’), a person or company can be the darling of the regional award scene one year, and hardly get a mention the next.

And how often do you hear that a project you’ve been working on for what seems like ages has been dropped, just like that? Perhaps it wasn’t well planned to start with?

Whatever the manifestation of this lack of loyalty and impromptu decisions, the reason we have arrived at this situation, I believe, is twofold:

1. Collectively we don’t have enough patience

When I started my communications career overseas, it was not rare to read headlines like ‘Reebok parts with its agency after 25 years’ or ‘Burger King parts with its agency after 15 years’. The reasons for parting was often because of a deep change in the philosophy or vision of one or both of the parties. The split was usually amicable and not really a surprise to either.

Like any good relationship, a client /agency /brand relationship strengthens and improves over time. Agencies need to be given the time it takes to truly understand and help shape a brand they are working on. And to learn from the mistakes that might happen along the way. And to follow a vision they and their client have for the brand. And to foster customer relationships.

But all too often in our region, the agency turnaround on a brand is too quick, and agencies are not treated as true partners in a relationship. They are dropped at a whim and clients find it too easy to call for a pitch or award the business to another more ‘friendly’ agency.

2. We don’t value spending time planning before building

We don’t spend time when building brands.

And brands don’t spend time building brand communities.

And clients don’t spend time building their agency or their customer relationships.

And corporations don’t spend time building their staff or their reputations.


I think there are many reasons for this lack of long term loyalty and planning culture:

Sadly, most clients have a high staff turnover, and the new team wants to work with people they are used to. So they fire the old agency and wheel in a new one.

And the region seems for many to be transient, a stop for a few years to make some money and live a life they wouldn’t ordinarily lead back home. So they don’t have any interest in long term planning and would rather implement because that’s what looks good on the CV.

Or it could be the lack of quality (qualitative) research being done by clients and agencies to truly understand the consumer in the market and their deep desires and motives. And most importantly the different cultures, deeply ingrained traditions, beliefs and habits held in the region.

And, (this might sound harsh) but I think there are many people who don’t know how to plan. And don’t know how to maintain a good relationship.

So what?

I think we are all worse off because of this lack of patience and commitment to longevity. The brand loses continuity and focus, the client loses, the customers lose and as individuals we lose the gratification that comes from seeing a brand grow and develop. The region is worse off because we lose our identity. Communication starts to feel superficial, not connected with the audience, and there is no continuity in the brand/ corporate conversation.

What do we about it? I don’t have the answers – but for a start, clients need to be educated in how to deal with their agencies and rewarded for maintaining agency relationships. They need to learn that a good agency is an asset that can help them and their brand shine.

We need to start having open, honest and transparent conversations based on mutual trust and win-win situations. Clients need to start treating agencies as partners rather than having a client vs. agency attitude. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Livingroom.

What about you? What’s your experience with your client or agency? I’d like to hear your point of view.


From functional, to aspirational, to meaningful economy.

How do we help people consume to achieve eudaimonia?

Carrying on from a previous post (Marketing Era’s), we are now in the era of the ‘meaningful’ economy. Our role in a meaningful economy is to help people achieve their quest for eudaimonia. In classical Greek, eudaimonia was used as a term for ‘the highest human good’, and so it became the aim of practical philosophy (including ethics and political philosophy), to consider what ‘the highest human good’ really is and how it can be achieved.

Today, it is not only philosophy which should be concerned with this subject. Governments, corporations and organisations who have a more prominent and important role in our life should be concerned with helping people achieve meaningful consumption opportunities.

Watch this interesting video about the new economy.



“Mugged on the street of life”

Too much choice destroys value.

Too much choice results in consumer disinterest. To succeed in the era of the conversation, ‘brands’ need to be honest and transparent, and forget the ‘non game changing’ product/ service additions and changes. Have a read of this.

Marketing Era’s.

A while ago I read a great thought which seemed to encapsulate everything that was happening around me in the world of communications/ marketing/ branding.

“There was a time when the most celebrated brands had a position where they could tell us to ‘think different’, and to ‘just do it’. Today brands have a somewhat different position” Tom Beckman, ECD Prime PR, Stockholm.

This thought explains beautifuly where we are today by comparing us to where we were, and how things have changed. So it got me thinking: how can we summarise how advertising/communications has changed over time? If we could do this, then we can draw some conclusions as to what was driving each movement, how consumers have changed over time, and what might be the factors influencing the future of communications.

This is my pre-liminary takeout.

80's product benefit advertising.

The 80s. This was the era of the product benefit. Slice-of-life advertising, product demonstrations and voice-over announcers. Mnemonic devices, jingles or any device that hammered home a specific product benefit. Of course, this product benefit made you more sexy, appealing and cool.

90's Image driven/aspirational advertising.

The 90’s. This was the era of the brand. Selling an image. Telling consumers how they will ‘look’ using this brand. Promises, promises. Pushing people to aspire to a specific lifestyle. If you use this product it will say ‘xyz’ about you. If you use this product, you will be…

The 00’s. After years of being sold promises and consumerism, the turn of the century signalled the start of a a search for authenticity. Consumers didn’t want to be sold a dream, they wanted “No Logo’s” (Anne Klein) and authentic products. Consumers wanted to help other communities around the world and make sure they were consuming ethically. They wanted to know the story behind the brand, it’s heritage and history. They wanted brands to start acting honestly. Brands shifted from selling ‘hyped, unreal aspirations’ in their ads to a having a ‘lifestyle’ positioning, being a source of ‘optimism’.

Viral and Interactivity explode.

The 10’s. Thanks to the I.T revolution people started to react to communications and brands that involved interactivity + involvement. The viral explosion (thanks to youtube, email and the internet) encouraged people to interact (online and offline) with brands via websites, competitions, games, forums. Nevertheless it was still a one-way conversation, with brands doing much of the talking.


The future. Welcome to the era of the conversation. Brands no longer own the conversation, consumers are taking charge. And if consumers don’t like what your brand has done,they will not be afraid to say it. This ‘conversation; is not just about communications, but brand/ corporate values have changed as well – to become more transparent, honest, open, community minded.

There is much that can be written about each era – and the cultural, geopolitical, social, economic and technological factors that influenced that era. Maybe that will be the topic of another post.

For now, it’s good to chart the evolution of communications to see how brands and marketing (does this word even exist anymore??) must adapt.

More on this topic later. Enjoy!