Category Archives: Brand

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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Success in 2017 means Disruption as standard

One thing stood out to me this year more than anything else; the fact that senior clients are finally seeing disruption as the new norm within their businesses.

Good news for me. Great news for them.

In 2017 more brands and industries will be shaped by technology and models that challenge their internal legacy frameworks. In marketing ‘traditional’ is no longer broadcast, that’s simply archaic. Traditional encompasses straight forward digital advertising, social at the heart of your conversations with consumers and hopefully semantic designs and processes.

So brands looking to be ahead of the game, or even just quick to follow, will need to go beyond sticking digital plasters over the cracks in their swim-lane plans for reaching and engaging audiences.

Mobile centric should now be standard, consumer concentric planning should be something your agency is talking to you about on every brief, and if you’re not already thinking about smart solutions that step towards AI integration into your service offering at the very least, then be prepared for next year to be the year you fall behind.

The internet is no longer contained in our laptops or phones. The Internet of Things (IoT) is here and very much a part of consumers’ lives. So if you’re a senior marketer then get ready to disrupt your marketing, chuck out the old rinse repeat model and shake up the business.

Brands that embrace innovative thinking next year will be the ones that establish new rules of engagement in a window of opportunity to explore and be brave.

Consumers want to work with brands and more importantly buy from brands that are seen to be innovative. The key is to take that first step, getting it 100% right doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you involve them in your journey, bring them into your beta; innovate, deploy, ask, listen, innovate, deploy… you get the picture.

So as you look to 2017 and wonder what it holds for you and your business, my advice is simple; disrupt your norm.

 

fish

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Behaving Badly

As a transformation strategist one of the biggest challenges I come across every week is getting planners and brand managers to shift from thinking like a brand to thinking like their intended audience. Too many briefs I see only have demographic customer profiles, which fall short when you’re planning for a digitally connected world.

To shift from broadcast to joined up storytelling, just knowing characteristics like; gender, age, marital status, geographic location, socio-economic status and so on simply isn’t enough and to make assumptions is lazy and will frankly lower your ROI.

I’m encouraging inclusion of behavioral insights, or customer modeling as it’s also known, into all the briefs and plans we’re creating with clients and here’s why:

1. Nearly every digital marketing touch-point is intended to invoke an action
2. An action is more likely to be taken if encouraged in a relevant way at the right time in a customer journey
3. A customer journey is made up of a customer behaving in a certain way
4. These behaviors are encouraged by a certain mindset at each touch-point
5. These mindsets are triggered by insights both implicit and explicit
6. Understanding what those insights are better enable us to invoke the intended action

Simple really.

Demographic profiling gives you just enough to paint picture of a typical persona in a hypothetical group of people. Behavioral profiling will give you a much higher chance of success because it’s a stronger predictor of what your relationship can be because it’s action orientated.

If you want to know more, I recommend this book; Misbehaving, written by Richard H.Thaler who pretty much invented the field of behavioral economics. It’s insightful and tells a great story. Not surprising when you think about it.

 

the-brain-009

Photograph: Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/Alamy/Alamy

 

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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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FFS

For many businesses I’m working with at the moment memberships are becoming the new subscriptions. The bar for a credible value exchange is set higher than ever before with freemium models saturating the market, so our hungry audience are no longer satisfied by exclusive content and a glossy cover, pixel enabled or not. 

Today wants tailored and timely, relevant and resonating. Brands are expected to know what their audience want, on a 121 basis, which is fine if you run the coffee shop round the corner and you’ve been there for 20 years watching the town around you grow up and evolve. It’s not so straight forward when you’re scaling beyond your inner circle into a model that not only makes money, but enables you to create a viable business that pays other people money too. 

This shift from having customers to members is a step change for how businesses build everything from their CRM programs to their technology stacks, because in today’s world every piece of data matters, because those pieces of data allow you to be relevant, to everyone. 

It’s easy to get dragged down into the detail, so I’ve put together a little checklist to help:  

Be Focussed

Decide wich parts of your paid membership are going to add the most value and invest on making those amazing first. If you do too many things at once it will not only cost a lot in production, but also in technical development and promotion. 

Be Frictionless

Make it really easy for your audience to receive, digest and share. There is nothing more disappointing to users, or more costly to you, if this doesn’t meet expectations. 

Be Selfless

Listen, analyse and adapt your model as you go. The most successful businesses are those that put their audience first and their business second. Think of them as your insight tool, fusing the next phase, they are not the end game. 

I appreciate the last one is the hardest, especially with financial goals and deadlines, but it’s the most important in the long run. 

We should all be thinking FFS for the right reasons. 

Image found on Pinterest via wework.com - thank you

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OMMMMMM G

We’re living in an omnichannel world, but what does that actually mean?

I’m getting a lot of questions around this at the moment, whilst the concept is fairly easy to understand, the minutiae of what it means to a brand is not quite so simple to grasp, so here’s a quick digest…

The word itself is derived from the word Omnis which can mean all or universal. And rather than linear use of channels, most of us are used to cross channel planning so really, omnichannel is the evolution of cross channel planning, done really well. 

To take that one step further, I would summarise it as; the true continuity of a brand or content experience that extends beyond a single place and crosses through multiple channels.  

Consumers are exposed to brands at multiple touchpoints, often at once, they could be looking at something on a mobile whilst in a physical store for example. As a brand therefore, planning for both the mobile experience and the physical store experience to be consistent would be part of omnichannel planning, it should be woven together with an invisible thread.

Essentially those brands that connect the components of an experience and the data around them; research of product, purchase, price, customer service and so on, will be the ones that shape a new dimension of customer decision.

It is indeed an intricate web we must weave.

Spider_Web_by_Autar

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The future belongs to connectivity

I spend a lot of my working life developing strategies for brands that need to move from broadcast, through audience engagement, to immersive connectivity, thinking three years into the future as a minimum, then I leave work and step into a broadcast heavy advertising bombardment and it saddens me.

That’s not to take anything away from the clever ads out there, but just imagine a future where advertising is intelligently informed, rewarding at just the right moment rather than randomly broadcast in a vain attempt to get your attention. 

Imagine that subtle product placement is integrated into how you live your life; your fridge is able to provide branded recipes based on it’s contents, your car can recommend a restaurant based on the time of day and your preferred driving routes, that restaurant then has your cocktail waiting on arrival with your preferred gin of choice.

It might sound mildly creepy to some but to me this everyday surprise and delight is an ease of living I am waiting to embrace.

I want brands to enable me to accomplish more, more seamlessly. We’re a few steps away from living in a truly connected world so every exchange between me and any brand should be streamlined at the very least. 

All we’re missing is the common language that connects all our smart devices but this will arrive soon and brands that adopt this thinking now, will be the ones that write the first chapter. 

Brands need to understand that they should be replacing my behaviours, not reinventing them; my ask is simple really, get to know me, then make my life better. 

gin cocktail

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It’s Hard to be a Diamond in a Rhinestone World

Meet ‘The Millennial’; a sophisticated and digitally savvy shopper, looking to be excited as much by the product as by the experience of researching it and flaunting it.

For today’s time poor, money flirtatious audience this is no longer just about Tiffany earrings Dahling; it’s also about the ‘to die for’ set of champagne flutes, the ‘totes in’ beach bag and even the simply ‘must have’ centre piece for the dining table.

The make up of luxury is getting a make over, and if it’s not pixel perfect then brands will need to prepare to be considered mainstream. 

Not only do consumers want to be enveloped in a beautiful, seamlessly immersive experience, they expect it, so when working with premium brands, I have these three key points as my guide:

  1. Are we sparkling: To be a cut above the rest, we must have the edge when it comes to going from design diamond in the rough, to top quality grade. If we can’t cut through and achieve stand out, we’ll quickly become mediocre. 
  2. Size matters, but not in the traditional way where whoever shouts loudest wins. Today consumers can access content wherever they are and will do so with whatever they have to hand, so our diamond needs to make the most of every screen size out there. I aim to be creating for 5 screen optimization at least, and an extra little tip; think mobile first, and mobile last. 
  3. Less is more. If we haven’t got something interesting to say, then I encourage not to say anything. With the rise of social continuing to grow it doesn’t mean copy and paste everywhere, we don’t have to be ‘always on’. We should be authentic, inspiring, but most of all we must be relevant, be always there, when our consumers want us to be. 

Getting it right takes research, time, dedication and constant evaluation. We must know and understand our audience in order to take our brand to their space in a meaningful way. 

No pressure, no diamonds.

pixie dust

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Technology enables, trust endures

I’ve been handed an influx of briefs recently from brands wanting to adopt copycat approaches, spending their budgets on stepping into their competitive space with ambitions to shout louder and ‘become the authoritative voice’, it’s sadly reminiscent of the work I was doing ten years ago.

Every brief looks the same; ‘we want to drive traffic to our website’, ‘we want to increase our share of voice’, we want consumers to buy our products and love us for it.

Technology has given us access to anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, which should be exciting. Yet in this increasingly cluttered space, brands have reverted to vanity exercises based on the assumption that their consumers have the time to seek out their content and care enough to do so.

Technology needs to be respected as a powerful enabler, it means so much more to consumers to have a personalised and useful experience in our immersive Internet of Things, so the focus for brands has to go beyond content.

Leading brands to understand that content and functionality must work together to reflect what consumers are trying to achieve is a key part of my everyday, yet convincing key stakeholders to put the needs of their audiences first in order to serve them is hard.

I truly believe that the brands who don’t make consumers the focus of their decisions will continue to drown amongst those who do. Those that succeed will command attention through engaging and value adding experiences.

In today’s omni-channel world great consumer experience is both necessary and advantageous, the bar is set high, it’s no longer about developing loyalty schemes, today an engaged consumer is worth more than a loyal one.

An engaged customer is one that has had an expectation met, which for a brand means, being relevant and adding value.

Less noise and more cut through is called for.

image courtesy of http://zeteo.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/silence-conserve.jpg

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Does your Ad Add?

Because if it doesn’t, then it’s just pollution.

Brands broadcasting their message online; from TV ads whacked on YouTube to tiny irritating banner messages (that are frankly a bit like an annoying buzzy mosquito), have been the advertising stance for too long.

Before you ask, yes, I hate banners. (Oh c’mon, when did you last click on one??).

Give me a brand genuinely willing to listen to their consumer, rather than trying to out shout their competition in a vanity exercise, any day of the year.

It’s refreshing when you finally get to ‘engage’ with someone in their moment of need online and help address that ‘Oh Crap, I just need to cook something quick, scrummy, yet healthy for the kids’ moment, or the ‘Bugger, my skin is rivalling a prune this morning’ moment… or the ‘What the hell is twerking??’ moment (yep, I’m in Google’s annual report for this one).

Taking that first step to move beyond an arbitrary KPI that doesn’t prove a thing, to owning a moment that lasts beyond the search result is the single bravest decision any brand can make.

So as a brand, are you ready? Not sure? Then simply ask yourself; as an individual, if you were a brand, what would you want people to say about you if you weren’t around to broadcast yourself?

The power of impression influences the conversation. Conversation is a two way thing. Oh, and it often happens ‘offline’.

Add, don’t Ad.

Think consumer first.

A Cool Add

This is a cool Add

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