Category Archives: Business

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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Too Punchy apparently…

I originally wrote this for a university blog who asked for some tips for their students on breaking in and succeeding in the advertising industry. Apparently this candid account of my journey so far is too punchy, they asked me to ‘tame it down’, I said NO! I have just the audience who might appreciate this as it is. So I’m publishing it here.

It’s longer than my normal posts, so grab a brew, take five and I hope you find some of this useful…

My Seven Tips for Survival

My job didn’t exist when I was at uni, it barely existed five years ago. I didn’t grow up thinking ‘One day I shall be a Transformation Strategist, or a Creative Technologist’. The reason I studied Art & Design at college is because I liked my teacher who taught design at school and I wanted to create beautiful things.

When I went on to university, the degree was titled ‘Graphic Design and New Media’; my first lesson was on search engines, an introduction to Google, my degree introduced me to Flash, Quark, InDesign and Freehand and on the day I graduated all of those skills were already out of date.

The reason I’m telling you this is that my first tip for stepping into our industry is to understand that it moves and evolves at breakneck speed, there’s a new start up every two minutes and a new technology every one. You have to be on your game every second to stay ahead.

What I did learn during my studies was that design and creativity is a fluid process; the principles of craft, attention to perfection (not just detail) and experimenting with how far you could push the boundaries would always deliver a result. Following graduation I found that print quickly bored me, so I taught myself to code and started to design interfaces, basic brand websites back then, and got excited. Code seemed to not only bend the rules but break them entirely, what you could achieve with dots per pixel rather than dots per inch seemed to know no boundaries, the only limitations were those of my mind. This brings me to my second tip, always push the boundaries and seek terrain unexplored.

Having realised this I quickly sought out the best agency in my area to learn how to do just that, I lived in Leeds at the time. I waited for a vaguely relevant job to come up, then when it did, I hounded them to employ me. I got the job, my first proper footing on the ladder (this was about two years after I graduated), that first foot is the hardest but most important one you’ll ever take.

The job was as an Account Executive, I didn’t exactly love booking rooms and making the tea, but I was surrounded by clever, fun people and quickly identified who I wanted my mentor to be, the smartest most rock ’n’ roll guy in the building who also happened to be leading the digital transformation for the whole agency. I stuck to him like glue for the following four years and he helped me become a savvy client facing strategist, adept in the rapidly changing world of digital. Tip three, surround yourself with the people you aspire to be and don’t be afraid to ask them to mentor you.

When it was time to move on life took me to London. I got a job at one of the leading UK agencies where I learnt how to manage big platform projects and start up enterprise solutions. I worked 12-18 hour days, every day to cram 3 years of progress into 18 months. It paid off, one of the top agencies in the world head hunted me into their team.

From then it was about jumping in with everything I had and pivoting my way through the most breakneck world I had ever experienced. I said yes to everything, then worried about how afterwards. I pushed myself to be the best at everything I took on, failure was not a situation I would accept. Tip four, do whatever it takes, if you don’t someone else will.

The hard work paid off when six months into the job I got a real chance to prove my abilities, arguably the turning point that made my career. Following leading a successful series of workshops I was asked to move to Japan and run the resulting global project for a major client. I had one week to pack up my life, lock up my flat and get on a plane, I didn’t even have an address to go to, it all happened so quickly my living arrangements were being organised whilst I was on the 13 hour flight to Narita.

48 hours later I found myself in an alien environment; I was half the age of the people around me, western, female and not able to speak the language. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I was amongst an incredibly intelligent bunch of people who knew this organisation inside out. Japan is a culture that lends to following a career path within the same company for the span of an entire career, these guys had started on the factory floor and worked their way to the top, then here I was to lead them through a massive change program. I swallowed the nerves, rolled my sleeves up and threw myself in. Tip five; if you’re not shi*tting yourself slightly, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.

Over the next six months I had to adapt daily to navigate many challenges. I started to build a strong team around me and the agency team back in London were nothing short of amazing. We spoke every day, we tackled problems together, when I got stuck they were there, when they couldn’t tell what was happening where I was, I brought them in, it was fluid, with many highs and lows but collectively we succeeded by working tightly together. Tip six; you are only as good as the team around you.

Since starting my career I’ve been a designer, a coder, a planner, a strategist, a client lead and half of a creative team. I’ve built teams, projects and many, many beautiful, useful things. I’ve changed minds and lives, kickstarted businesses, led huge programs, mentored, managed and broken every rule in the book. Most of all I’ve taken risks. Tip seven; don’t be afraid to take risks, it’s how we improve ourselves.

The words of my mentor when I left that first job in Leeds still ring true today, ‘Why will Karen succeed? Quite simply, because she has no fear’.

So my advice to you as you start on your journey in a particularly exciting but turbulent industry, is ‘Just say yes, be brave and jump in’.

What’s the worst that can happen…

jumping-off-a-cliff.jpgimage found on https://developingourwings.wordpress.com/ – thank you

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New ads on the block

Though the penetration of ad-blockers has slowed since the initial surge it’s by no means showing signs of stopping and certainly not of declining.

Ad-blocking has firmly established a threatening presence as the reckoning force that threatens the ongoing revenue streams for content creators and advertisers. In 2015 they ensured a global loss of £14.1bn in ad revenue and that figure is predicted to double in 2016.

I blogged about Native ads in March which are becoming stronger and more relevant in the main, but what I’m really liking is the determination across the creative industry to rise to the challenge and simply create better ads. Because why not?

Last year D&AD created ‘Ad Filter’, an extension that works across Chrome and Firefox replacing crappy boring ads with engaging brilliant ones. Olivier Apers, executive creative director of design agency BETC Paris, which collaborated on the filter said ‘We wanted to demonstrate that people don’t hate advertising, they just hate bad advertising,’ – so true. 

Good advertising is about integrating with what our audiences are doing, that isn’t going to change, perhaps the introduction of this will remind bad advertisers to stop blanket broadcasting.

If the industry as a collective can lift the bar on creative then we’ll earn the upwards curve on trust back, meaning advertisers will protect their income and users will stop inadvertently putting their favorite sites out of business.

Time to roll our sleeves up. 

Bicep Appreciation

Image shamelessly lifted from the Marines Bicep Appreciation Pinterest Page

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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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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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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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Dream. Lead. Achieve.

I’m lucky enough have to have a team of rising stars to mentor and see through their careers, and being that time of year when promotions are being considered and reviews are being done, I’ve been asked a lot recently about what the difference is in stepping up from being a manager and about what makes a good leader.

I thought I’d share the principles I choose to lead by;

  1. Always do more than you expect of your team and never ask your team to do something you’re not prepared to do yourself.
  2. Solve problems; the day people stop coming to you with problems is the day you stopped leading and the day you lost their trust.
  3. Make decisions, never make excuses.
  4. Take more than your share of blame and less than your share of credit. Give the credit to the team around you.
  5. Always have a vision.

Early on in my transition from management to leadership, my mentor said to me: “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.” A quote I went on to find out was from Peter F. Drucker. She was right. She’s still my mentor.

Today, I still have a lot of dreams and aspirations, I’m still learning how to be a better leader and more importantly, how to develop better leaders. Having a great idea, putting a team in place to execute it and committing to making that dream become a reality is what separates leaders from just dreamers.

To do this, beyond principles, I also believe you need certain qualities to be a great leader, for me these are;

  1. Honesty; being open and being true, because in doing so you will earn trust and loyalty.
  2. Integrity; someone described this to me once as ‘standing in your own pool of truth’.
  3. Commitment; once you’ve made your decision, stand by it and do whatever it takes to enable it.
  4. Inspire; you can’t lead if you can’t evoke emotion in those around you.
  5. Always have a dream.

pawn-mirror-chess-king-edit

“If your dreams don’t scare you they are too small.” 

Richard Branson

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