This talk is interesting not only from a nutrition & health perspective (it might lead to a debunking of some long held beliefs about obesity & diabetes) but because of the scientific thought process behind it which we could learn from. It shows a willingness to challenge the pre-accepted hypothesis and to develop empathy with a situation rather than just passing quick judgement.
It is a demonstration of open minds, courage to throw out yesterday’s hypothesis, and a recognition that scientific truth isn’t final but constantly evolving.
So how can we learn from this for our own industry? For me there are two points:
First, although advertising is not a science but we should try to make it so – for example we search for an insight just like researchers looking for Cholinesterase inhibitors treating Alzheimers. The difference is that we shouldn’t debate, procrastinate and pontificate over it but instead invest in a true process of discovery.
Second, even when we do uncover an amazing insight, the enchantment of great advertising is not actually the insight itself but about taking a straight forward insight and turning it into something amazing.
The point is that ultimately advertising is an entertainment / creative & social industry. Maybe we shouldn’t be over-thinking creativity and searching for a holy grail, and instead just letting go of our inhibitions and enjoying ourselves (just like when we watch something that engages us). Let’s be honest with ourselves – these days whether a campaign for a noble humanitarian cause or the next big Soda campaign, the life span of an idea is a few days / weeks with a # before something else takes its place. So let’s be nimble, let’s be flexible, let’s search for entertaining ideas rather than unequivocal truths because there are very few unequivocal truths in the world, but many points of connection.
I’d like to leave you with this message from Joi Ito. If innovation has been broken down and democratized, then it’s right for advertising to be also broken down and democratised. The future is about not getting bogged down in words and statements and more about quick prototyping, experimenting, learning to trust the team and building on each others ideas. This doesn’t take the responsibility off strategic rigour, but it recognises that advertising just like Science and Innovation is about experimenting, coming up with quick iterations, building and breaking hypothesis and then getting to the point where we can make a creative leap to something fresh yet useful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Previously, I’ve written about the progress of Marketing and Communications over time (Marketing Era’s; From-functional-to-aspirational-to-meaningful-economy). One might argue that such definition of trends and cycles is outdated even irrelevant, since the pace of change in society and culture today is so fast, things move on before we can even discuss them. But, I still believe it is worthwhile to scope out the landscape we are working in, if for nothing else, just to know its modus operandi. Also it is worthwhile (1) to understand the changes in people’s behavior and how to deal with them (policies, products, conversations). (2) To understand the effects of these changes and how to navigate the future. After all, the intelligent brand/ corporation is one who can adapt and be ready for the future.
With that in mind, I believe that the current cycle is one of conversation / experience. More than that, it is one where stories shine. If we consider the rise of WordPress, tumblr, wordpad and even Pinterest and Instagram, I believe one thing they have in common is the idea of sharing our ‘stories’ with people. Even when we tweet we are sharing a ‘story’ of sorts.
Thanks to (as a result of) the digital revolution, people have become accustomed to giving more media more of their time. People spend short – sometimes long – chunks of time engaged in watching videos (Vimeo, youtube), reading (slideshare, blogs, facebook and twitter links), playing games (with all the emotions they involve). Only an interesting ‘story’ makes people do that.
If you look at the print ads below (source: Archive magazine vol.3 2012), you will see that they tell interesting stories. They engage people with an introduction, main plot and conclusion of sorts.
The notion of stories in marketing is not new. But what I believe is important is the way we look at stories from a brand viewpoint.
A brand story is not just a manifesto. Everything the brand does is part of its storyline. And unlike in the past, the ‘storyline’ doesn’t need to continue identically through all communication touchpoints. In fact, we can consider all touchpoints and all aspects of the brand as having unique stories with unique sub-plots, characters and settings across all touchpoints. They don’t all need to look or feel or sound identical. As long as they tell the story in total. At different points in time, one outweighs the other (see diagram below).
So next time you’re briefing your agency, make sure they understand and have a plan to tell your brand story though various touchpoints and that each touchpoint has its own engaging story and emotion. That’s what we do for our brands ;) It’s what keeps our work fresh, intriguing and interesting.
In communications, great ‘insights’ are coveted. To be in touch with our consumers and find out how they spend their time, what they hope, what they fear, what they are motivated by, how they choose, how they live. These ‘insights’ help us develop communications that will engage people and trigger some sort of response or connection.
A lot has been written about insights – how to get them and how to crystalise them. But I think nothing has been written on capturing insights in an economy and landscape and lifestyle that has remarkably changed. So, although the pace of the world and the pace of change today is spinning faster than previously, I think the way we capture our insights hasn’t adapted.
We still spend time searching for the ‘golden egg’ when this concept is outdated in todays economy.
Today there are many inspired people with ‘hack / prototype’ mentality and ways of doing things. People who have a belief and vision to change the world. They don’t wait for an ‘insight’ – they work on a belief. So it follows, that our strategic insights should come from this starting point. I put forward that insights should be real, instinctive, based on a belief on where the world is headed, and based on a reservoir of built-up research – i.e not research commissioned specifically to capture an insight.
This is ‘radical’ coming from a ‘planner’ because insights have been the area planning has been built around (Bernbach, Pollitt et al) but advertising as we know it is history. So whilst we’re reinventing the advertising wheel, we should start by reinventing how we define and crystalise insights as well.
Food for thought.
As an ambitious young student searching for a career to pursue, it seemed a paradigm shift was happening away from manual / technical labor, production, agriculture. The future belonged to those with a profession, the service industry, those who had ‘intellectual property’.
But this bit of forward planning didn’t predict the Internet & digital boom, the population explosion, the effects of the environmental meltdown, endemic global economic woes, global inequality or various political rumblings.
We are living in recession weary yet technologically driven days. Data and knowledge is easily accessible and what we do with this is what sets us apart. Publishing and communication has never been easier. Any industry which is opportunistic and relies on the success or failure of others will remain stagnant. Anthropologist David Graeber calls these the ‘Bullshit Jobs’ which tend to be concentrated in “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers”. And any industry that fails to acknowledge and adapt to the rapidly changing political, economic or environmental changes will suffer.
Over the last 15 years and specifically the last 8 years, (since the launch of Facebook) the world has changed faster than the previous half century. We are now in what many call a ‘state of flux’. A constant state of rapid development.
In this state of flux, technical skills are increasingly in demand. People who do and make stuff, who have a unique flair for creating something new or improve on an existing design. The ‘new world’ is like an island inhabited for the first time, a chaotic frontier, it needs designers, builders, plumbers, carpenters, bakers, chefs, farmers, app developers, software & hardware designers and developers, engineers, scientists, mathematicians. People who do, who create, who help solve old world problems in new world ways.
Leading this transition is Generation Flux, a new breed of entrepreneur who is quick and nimble at making something new or improving on previous ideas.
We can no longer afford the luxury of old world silos and job descriptions; we must create new ones, based on symbiosis and flexibility. Jobs are not guaranteed, especially lifelong jobs – in the new world once a project is over you move onto the next project. When your contract is over there is help needed elsewhere. We need an army of doers. A constant state of symbiosis with our fellow inhabitants and the land.
The world is changing at a rapid rate, much faster than you can say MBA. Are you ready for it?
Must read this article.
It is an example of the seismic shift we will continue to see across all industries and retail is no exception (see also Walmart and Apple retail).
Welcome to the new way of working. Transparancy and efficiency.
I love his customer understanding and respect “The customer knows the right price,” Mr. Johnson said. “We can raise the price all we want. She’s only going to pay the right price. She’s an expert.”
Change is a-coming. Oh yeah!
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 ;-)
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?
Today, good brand strategy is based on mutual benefit, takes into account sustainability. Is transparent and honest.
Till next time, enjoy!
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.
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.
Here’s one that should inspire new ideas and substantiate some existing ones.