Category Archives: Business Change

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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Creating Cultures of Innovation

Innovation is such a loaded word.

How do you constantly reinvent yourself? The team around you? How do you think like a start up when you hit 150 people, 300 people, 500..?

I come across two sets of people every day; the ‘No, but’s’ and the ‘Yes, and’s’. It’s the latter that drive change because they disrupt with positivity.  My starting point is always to invite these guys in and let them thrive for as long as possible.

Once positive disruption is in place (and it needn’t take many people to create a stir) quickly focus on negating potential risk of that running for too long. Once you have something that you intuitively feel is right, start making it. It doesn’t have to be slick, rough and ready is good, but play with it, test it, let others do the same.

Ask yourself; if you were to put money into this how confident would you be that it will succeed?

I can promise you this; regardless of what your idea is you will be more confident once you start making it. You simply can’t get the insight and feedback loop you need from a deck with some words and pictures in it. It’s not the same.

Once you have something tangible, look at what makes it fit for brief, or purpose (depending whether you’re coming at this as an agency or client). The idea itself will die if it’s not put into practice, and quickly.

At this stage you should involve your audience in your beta, this is where you get the ‘authentic truths’ from and where your product will start to improve quickly. This will also help you identify where scale and profitability will come from, which in turn will shape your ‘go to market’ approach.

If you’ve reached this point, well done! You should feel like you have a desirable product or service and this is where sh*t gets real.

There are many ways to go to market, especially with ‘the internet’ enabling us to reach the masses quickly and effectively. Don’t forget to include the audience you’ve just built in your testing, include them as you plan your approach.

Hacker marketing, or growth marketing should never be underestimated, I recommend this book if you’re ready to start getting something out there and you’re a start up, or try this one if you’re an agency or client with an internal team changing the status quo. Obviously feel free to read both!

It doesn’t stop here, once you’re up and running, never stop innovating or disrupting. If you sit on your laurels, someone else will come along and disrupt you, which doesn’t feel good.

Keep pushing, interrogating, improve your product, or move on to something else.

Whatever you do, don’t sit still.

In the words of Steve Jobs ‘If you don’t cannabalise yourself, someone else will.’ And look what he achieved.

stevejobs1image found on Google – thank you

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the blending edge

It’s the second week of a new year and I’m halfway through writing three future retail strategies.

Though blurred lines won’t be a new premise for most of you who follow this blog, I thought a handy snapshot of where you can expect them to become increasingly blurred across the year might prove useful as it’s the recurring theme I’m hearing myself explain on a daily basis.

So here are my top blurred lines to expect for 2017;

The line between clicks and bricks

For anyone leading the way when it comes to the conversation between shopping online verses in-store, this will have been on your radar for several years by now, but thanks to Amazon bringing checkout free shopping to bricks and mortar in Seattle, this year comes with a whole new sense of anticipation and threat. Admittedly whilst limited at the moment, given the force behind the world’s 7th biggest brand it won’t be long before they’re popping up all over the globe. The internet will continue to spill out of our mobiles and laptops and into the objects around us, the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived.

The line between humans and intelligent assistants

Not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is autonomous, Intelligent Assistants (IA) are on the rise at a rapid rate. An IA is pre-programmed with data and doesn’t learn autonomously, this means brands are feeling more comfortable with releasing them into their customer service offerings and consumers are more comfortable with interacting with them. The speedy response negates the desire to have an informal chat with a human over the phone and accuracy is vastly improving.

The line between one and many

One of the greatest strengths of the internet is it’s ability to merge consumers needs with others that identify with the same. This pier to pier collaboration is defining what habits emerge and what technology enables those habits.

The line between social power and brand success

Building on this last point, brands are built on what consumers say about you, and thanks to the power of social, what is said is heard far and wide in seconds. You only have to look at the likes of Uber and AirBnB, case studies that are thrown around to show the true power of businesses built on ratings and feedback, to see the reality is that what you say is barely relevant, the true power is with the consumer. Content was King across Web 1.0 and 2.0, Context across Web 2.0 and 3.0. Depending on how sophisticated your brand is, you’re likely somewhere between 3.0 and 4.0 so the consumer is very much your King today.

The line between listening and predicting

Nike built their brand on the philosophy ‘Know me to serve me’ and it sits at the heart of everything they do. Because technology means consumers can have whatever they want at the touch of a button successful brands have a limited window to ‘listen and respond’. The successful retailer will know what a consumer wants before they even know they want it.

It’s clear that the notion of a clear dividing line is drawing to a close.

amazon-go

image found on http://www.theguardian.com – thank you

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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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music is morphing

The audioscape is shifting. In 2014 digital music revenue matched the physical and though the report isn’t out yet I suspect the balance tipped over towards digital in 2015. Whilst downloads still just about make up the bulk of that revenue, streaming services show continued growth to satisfy the personalised on-demand needs of the ever impatient consumer.

It is becoming more apparent however, that rather than posing a threat to traditional radio broadcast, it is in fact providing pre-cognitive insight to help programmers find the next hit, or know when to stop playing a track to death, thankfully.

Having long been an advocate of services such as Spotify, Amazon Prime and YouTube I’ve pondered several times where the data connections between airplay, streaming and record sales will join up.

A short while back I spoke with Spotify (the world’s biggest music streaming service) about how their platform can inform what’s next, allowing them to be ahead of the curve on everything from up and coming artists to how to name their playlists, the value is clear; it’s a completely accurate analysis of listener choice.

Streaming is a mainstream activity. Over two thirds of internet users accessed a licensed digital service in 2015 and the strength of the industry today is seen in the total flexibility it provides, allowing artists to reach a much wider audience in a way they want to be reached.

This has seen a shift from music models based on ownership to those based on access, which coupled with consumers streaming more and more on smartphone and tablets (up 114% in 2015 according to Wells Fargo) means subscriptions will continue to shape the music portfolio available.

So what’s next? I reckon we have three things to look forward to:

First up, music will become more intuitive. The Echo Nest acquired by Spotify provides an intelligence platform that mixes human skill, clever algorithms and social curation, meaning you can quickly get personal. This thinking will spread.

Secondly, enhancing how we perform by influencing the frequency of our brainwaves will continue to improve. We all know that faster music makes us run faster and slower music focusses breathing for yoga. This thinking is already built into how Spotify’s algorithm can work, for example their partnership with Nike which matches music to your tempo.

Thirdly, a merger of these two approaches to create a constant seamless service that will use prediction to enhance our brainwaves through binaural beats so we all become super intelligent thanks to music.

OK, maybe that last one is a few years away… but it will happen.

 

-3952

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YOLO to FOMO

How many times have you rolled your eyes and resignedly sighed ‘Oh the Yoof of today’?

If I’m honest, I lost count a while back, but that said I’ve also forgotten the last time I said it. Why? Because quite frankly this ‘Yoof’ are outsmarting c-suites around the world and as they start to enter the workplace they’re shaking things up, I believe for the better.

They’re more focused, more ambitious and more tech enabled than any other generation to date. They also have the lowest drug abuse, lowest alcohol abuse and lowest teenage pregnancy rate than any other generation. They’re tech savvy and life savvy.

They are the first digitally native generation, having never known a world without the internet and according to Business Insider 61% would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate.

They’re the generation happy to pay over the odds for the latest smartphone but that make up for it by streaming video content for free rather than paying to rent movies, they dual screen constantly, multi task ferociously, are hungry for everything, patient for nothing.

For brands, they pose an increasingly difficult audience to reach, with such rapid and sporadic consumption of media they live in fear that they will miss out. They constantly switch between devices and channels, which has resulted in them having the attention span of a goldfish… literally.

They’re exposed to thousands of brands, hundreds of times from their waking moment to their sleeping one, so the question posed to brands today is, how do you make your 8 seconds count?

Less is certainly more, and any communication must cut through the noise in a concise way, bear in mind that these guys have entire conversations through emojis, or Kimojis (JGI).

Forget disruptive technology, these guys are already beginning to change the landscape. The clunky old guys at the top currently trying to move things forwards will simply need to keep up or get ready to pack their suitcases and go home.

 

emoji unicorn

 

p.s. YOLO = You Only Live Once (totes popular with millennials) FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out (which if you read the post you’ll get 😉 )

p.p.s. sorry if you’re feeling old now

p.p.p.s. but I did use a unicorn emoji so that restores the balance

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Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, complacency did

A big part of Leadership is the ability to pivot and adapt to change. Within the creative industry change happens all around us, new ideas, emerging technologies, new skill sets, different teams, in my entire career I don’t think I’ve had two days that went the same way.

I currently help lead the digital discipline across an integrated agency that has moved rapidly from its roots in traditional advertising, to adapt to our clients needs to deliver quality integrated campaigns.

With this evolution we are seeing a new expertise blossoming in the coined value of ‘T-shaped’ people, those that have a strong vertical but can work alongside other teams and departments to see the wider context of their work. For example, my vertical is digital, but I work through ‘the line’ with traditional creative and production teams. Within the digital vertical I am working with other ‘T’s’; designers who work with tech, producers who work with writers and so on.

The success of our agency is inevitably about the ability to embrace change, being curious about what everyone around them is doing and collaborating to make it amazing.

We’re a digitally empowered nation. As an agency our clients and their audiences are smart. They can tell when the dots aren’t joined up so a blended skill set is no longer a nice to have, it’s a necessity to transformation.

The search for the best talent today is less about specialism and more about diversity. This next phase promises to be dynamic, turbulent and challenging.

The last of the dinosaurs are on their way out.

all my friends

 

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Personalisation with a side of ease

As someone who travels a lot there’s nothing worse than stepping off a long flight, red-eye kicking in, knowing you’ve still got to claim your luggage, find your transfer, get across town, find your hotel, complete an arduous check in process and get up to your room before you can finally collapse on the bed.

So imagine my excitement when I spent a day with the top tech bods in the travel and hospitality industry reinventing the entire future-scape for the upgrade needed to cater for Gen X & Y travellers.

We talked a lot about the automation of the journey. How we could put in place a centralised data approach with intelligence systems connected to smartphones and robots aiding the various staff throughout. Whilst I find that really exciting, I’m sure you won’t want to be bored with the tech stack, so to let you in on how it might feel in 2025 I’ll summarise a brief walk through of a typical business trip, we’ll start with stepping off that plane again…

The second you switch from flight mode a signal is sent to your smart suitcase where the built-in tracker connects to your phone as you make your way through customs, you time getting to the conveyor belt perfectly. You pick up your case and activate the next signal, which is sent to your driver who now knows to get to the pick up bay within a three-minute window, avoiding parking fees, congestion and more importantly you being irritated by him not being there.

Your GPS switches to your driver who you find with equal ease. You collapse in the back of the car, whatever music you want is synced automatically, the temperature adjusted and an update sent to your hotel with your live eta feed updating your awaiting concierge.

On arrival your check-in is confirmed through facial recognition, you’re then greeted personally and swiftly shown to your room whereupon your climate is again synced, your drink and snack of choice is freshly prepared and your smart TV pre-loaded with your favourite channels. You can even activate a holographic in-room personal trainer should you so wish…

Your dinner table is reserved at the time you would normally eat and on arrival you see that the menu is based on your culinary preferences with wine recommendations to match. Not only that but the seasonal info and the history of the restaurant Chef are sent to your mobile because they know you like to read the background to what you eat and how it’s prepared.

After dinner, you retire to the lounge and login to a guest screen which is loaded with your business itinerary, options to tailor your travel and where to take your clients, plus recommendations on what to do with your spare time.

You relax, confident that every detail has been taken care of.

In this future-scape our aim is to democratise an executive level of assistance so that everyone can have his or her own ‘Parker’ rather than having to rely on ‘Manwell’.

do not disturb

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Minding Change. Changing minds

One day (pick any day in your career), a client will have said to you ‘We’re not set up to do that, this way is tried and tested’, then in the next breath, they’ll ask for scalability with stability.

Big businesses based on structures that scaled in the 80’s when the price of bread was stable and people had one job for life, find it really hard to keep up with the rate that technology and mindsets develop.

Back then the channels were limited and the organisations structured linearly, now we have to deal with forever shifting landscapes and instantaneous communication flows.

I work for a company that has recently gone through a lot of change, as we equally work to help our clients to change, so for the last 18 months I’ve been deeply immersed in what the theory verses the reality can look like, and indeed feel like.

I believe that long-term structural change needs three things to be considered:

  1. Scale; setting a foundation and building upon that in the right way
  2. Speed; ramping up and achieving significant growth quickly
  3. Stability; an output that can sustain the duration and return, over and above the investment

Yet at the very heart of all of this, the thing that keeps me awake at night, and no doubt my business partners too is that we only really succeed when change works at an individual level, because that’s where the passion comes from.

I was lucky enough to talk to Evan Spiegel yesterday, the founder and CEO of Snapchat, he’s young, smart and not bound by the constrictions of big old businesses, he said this:

‘Success is based on leaders that love their people’

It rings very true to me, and as I make my way up the corporate rungs it’s becoming starkly obvious just how hard it is to achieve the balance transforming requires.

change

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