Category Archives: Innovation

20 for 2020: My predictions for the year ahead

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Image courtesy of Evie Shaffer on Pexels – Thank You

From the obvious to the not so obvious, for the last few years I’ve shared my musings for the year ahead at the break of each year and 2020 is set to be a big one so I’ve put some thought into a big list.

The below 20 predictions are informed by insights derived from three places; recurring conversations I’ve had with colleagues and clients over the last year as we look ahead together, industry roundtables and networking discussions and correlations derived with my team of data wizards (scientists make them sound rather boring) from multiple data sources.

I’ll certainly find it interesting to look back in a year and see how many were along the right lines. Grab a cuppa this is a 10 minute read (if you’re not skimming it)…

1. Voice will have a bigger say

Voice assistants continued to dominate 2019 with increased adoption of in-phone and in-home use, couple that with a wider acceptance that Alexa really isn’t interested in what you do in your spare time unless you ask her to be and it’s no wonder that by 2023 the estimated adoption will almost double from just over four billion in 2020 to eight billion voice assistants globally (source: Statista). 2020’s usage will extend through hands free use of ear buds and in car adoption.

2. 5G will destabilise mobile data expectancy

It was a big promise for 2019 that was never really delivered against so as it’s again marked for bigger adoption in 2020 many mobile experts are calling out that in fact when it does work it simply puts pressure on areas still in 3G (sometimes still 2G) to bridge the gap. The knock on effect to this is that supply chains are becoming more complex, more fragmented and finding it harder to deliver against consumer expectation at scale. This is not great news for brands with an audience who like to globetrot.

3. Next hour delivery will surge forwards

Yep, we’re a demanding bunch when it comes to getting what we want, when we want it wherever the heck we are. The rise of cashless societies and intelligent end to end supply chains – with the latter end being wherever our mobile phone is – and Amazon continuing to narrow the timeframe means we should expect; that last minute mascara drop, the oh sh*t I ran out of nappies drop and the night on the town LBD drop within an hour of hitting BUY NOW.

4. Data will make decisions

This might sound a bit obvious, but actually for all the hype around using data big or small, most brands are only really just getting to grips with analytics let alone algorithms. Brands that win will have a smart data lake set up to make insightful decisions. These decisions will be built around their consumers, geared for business profitability and secured for brand strength.

5. AI will get emotional

After years of dabbling with empathy notes through the use of AI we’ve teetered on the edge of putting it to good use, and I’m not talking about sophisticated spam (otherwise known as programmatic advertising). 2020 will see  the use of emotional AI to better predict a users need or desire and to ensure those needs and desires are reflected in how the brand interacts with them from that point on. This will move interactions from functional to emotional understanding of each journey stage from advertising through to CX for the lifetime of that relationship. The boundary between tech and human must remain intact however, it should be sentient not systematised stalking.

6. Our brains will start interfacing with computers

Not as crazy as you think! Yes it’s true Facebook acquired CTRL-Labs in 2019 and Elon got Neuralink working on rats, but closer to home there were several successes across 2019 to translate neuro-signals directly into computers in the medical field, to name a few; Texas Tech Uni translated EEG signals into emotional data, a team of scientists in Washington invented a device that can control neural circuits using a tiny brain implant controlled by a smartphone to help uncover brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, Dartmouth College Researchers identified a non-verbal, neural marker of autism offering potential to diagnose autism in the future. MedTech seeps into other industries so I suspect 2020 will see this technology being played out for experiences, I only hope Facebook don’t control the road there!

Talking of Facebook…

7. The social tech giants will feel a stronger spotlight upon them

More rigour will be put into setting rules and regulations that lend to ensure the services of big social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter help solve real, non-trivial, problems rather than create them. Following the political clusterf*cks of the past few years and the pending elections in 2020 the pressure will be on to ensure that humanity is enabled through social connection, not persuaded, influenced and cheated. Brands that win will demonstrate transparency and honesty in how they operate and use these platforms.

Meanwhile…

8. Deepfakes will work harder to stir up controversy

DF tech is not only hugely sophisticated now but more scarily it’s widely available. With the upcoming presidential election already something of a controversy I suspect that will be a big target. I only hope (as I know so many others do) that the general awareness of this tech and indeed overall fake news is leaving audiences informed enough to stop the spread.

but there is hope!

9. Not for profit news will take force 

Whilst the eye of Mordor will be on the social and for profit news platforms, the growth of nonprofit, public serving news teams will start to make a difference. In the states there are several state specific newsrooms that have sprung up over the last couple of years, and across Europe we’re seeing the same too. They will win by providing their communities with independent, balanced, informed and trusted news so that local communities can make their own decisions.

10. Humans will reconnect without tech

There is fatigue around being constantly connected to each other all of the time and just because we can be on the internet, doesn’t mean we should. In the workplace we will see continued efforts to create spaces for people to come together away from email, more workshops will take place outdoors away from the office, day to day people are booking WiFi free holidays, escaping up mountains or under the sea, families are enforcing mobile phone free time and making more effort to bring generations together more often. Hooray for real hugs and not virtual ones!

OK, we’re halfway through..

11. Pier-to-pier services will grow

Whether you’re getting your IKEA shelves assembled, your car pooled, your business funded or your lost luggage returned by a guest staying at the hotel you just left – pier to pier support networks are taking off in clusters around the globe and I think we’ll see an upward surge in adoption of these services.

12. Demand for on Demand will rise and simplify

We’ve seen a proliferation of streaming services and the (ahem) rollout of 5G should make it easier to access content on the go but, it’s been getting messy and service providers have got desperate in the greedy race against each other. 2020 will be the year consumers realise they don’t need to spend as much on entertainment and will choose their preferred supplier and cut the rest.

OK, less about tech and more about people…

13. People will focus on fun more

The last decade has largely been about saving for your future self, a self that for the masses has been thrown into turmoil by political and economical strife. As we stride into the ‘Experience Era’, we do so with consumers who are realising once again that life is for living  and freeing themselves of the shackles their previous generations held them to. We will see much more fun and excitement in how people go about their every day whilst still keeping an eye to what’s next. Brands that win will embrace and enable this as often as they can.

14. GenZ will make treads on writing the change for our future

2019 saw a huge uprising in GenZers self proclaiming to be the generation that will save us all from the damage we have caused; the world, the news, our images, our self esteem and so on. 2020 is set to be stirred up and driven even more by GenZ seeking to change the future whether; Greta Thunberg for climate change (I imagine you know who she is), Billy Monger for Adversity (a double amputee F1 racer) or Tiffany Zhong for smart investing (she’s one of the worlds youngest VC’s). And if you think you’re older and wiser you should still be listening because according to McKinsey and Gartner GenZ will make up 40% of consumers before 2020 is out.

15. Brands that ignore CX will lose out

We have seen first hand how the digital evolution is fundamentally altering consumer expectations; changing how companies and brands create, deliver and capture value. Simply changing technology or ‘doing’ digital is not enough. Our BAV  studies (you can learn about this here) showed that brands that create connected experiences for and around their consumers (CX) see on average: 51% uplift in differentiation from those that don’t, +38% brand esteem (strength and stature), 41% increase to become a top preference, see +21% emotional commitment, have +17% commitment and loyalty and +31% pricing power. It quantifiably strengthens not just the brand but the sustained business growth.  The Forrester CX Index shows that every CX focused business profited in 2019, an insight also backed by the S&P 500 that additionally highlights those that didn’t embrace CX fell in value.

16. Successful brands will show loyalty (proactive CX) before expecting loyalty in return

Smart brands know that profitability is better related to loyalty rather than constant market share growth. Having spent years challenging lazy marketers to stop handing out briefs that have the objective ‘to grow’ in them (obviously you want to grow if you’re marketing!!!) I am finally seeing many, many more brands leaning in to proactively sorting their CX offering so they can offer credible value to consumers before expecting purchase in return. These brands will win in 2020 and the next decade belongs to them.

17. Businesses will combine and simplify their revenue portfolios

Brands and businesses that understand their consumers have already started aligning silo’d teams around combined business models as an output, combining;  sales, marketing, customer services and product development. This helps de-silo customer data and provide a ‘one customer pov’ (if you believe in such a thing).  2020 will see the knock on effect of this, and as business model innovation leads to full attribution and one overall return so we will need the coming together of all revenue-driving teams.

And to end on a few big points…

18. Climate change will force business change

At some point in every business value chain there is a crossroad with nature and the ignorance to the impact of these crossroads has been displaced too much over the last few years. There is nowhere to hide and no excuse to do so anymore and I think 2020 is the year that businesses will be forced to stop ignoring the signs as their bottom lines decline whether directly or indirectly related to climate change. A mixture of social responsibility, shifts in management, technology adoption, consumer awareness and consumer loyalty combined have got us to a critical mass for changing business models in order to address their damage on our climate.

19. Consumers will enforce profit and purpose to become combined metrics through their purchase decisions

Further to my point above, consumers buy into brands that consistently and clearly stand for something good. 2019 called for brands to DO stuff not just SAY stuff and 2020 will see the evolution of this. My mantra remains steady as we head into this next year ‘Good Businesses will do Good Business’. It’s not complicated; if you’re damaging the climate then you’re damaging your bottom line. So if you use plastic packaging, find a way to stop. If your product is full of unsustainable sources, find sustainable ones. STOP putting the emphasis on your consumers and START putting it on your business.

20. Businesses will recognise that people (not tech) will lead them into the future

From start ups to global corporations, the era of relying on technology to drive the future is shifting to one that recognises more widely that technology should drive the people to drive the future. I think we will see a reprioritisation of effort and investment around human centred thinking and doing within organisations, this in turn will be reflected on how these businesses act outwardly and the uplift on brand strength and business performance will be visible. As Henry Ford once said, ‘A business that makes only money is a very poor business.’

And there you have it, if you got to the end THANK YOU. I hope you found some of it interesting and the very best of luck to you and your business in 2020.

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Straight outta Silicon Valley

I’m sat at SFO airport waiting to board a flight and reflecting on my 72 hours in Silicon Valley. I’ve been at Menlo Park courtesy of Facebook, up in Mountain View meeting some Googlers, down in Palo Alto and finally in the sunny city of San Francisco itself meeting with start-ups and entrepreneurs to get the skinny on what gives this place it’s energy and draw for the next generations of thinkers, makers and investors.

What struck me more than anything is the almost unanimous focus on people first. It pleasantly surprises me to hear this time and again, for admittedly I was expecting a more ruthless ‘follow the money’ response to my questions.

Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the recent legislations, maybe it’s just that it’s so damn expensive everyone pulls together, but almost every response was around building the right team, with the right people and avoiding the sharks and d*ckheads, which for those that don’t know me personally, is exactly my mantra so it resonated.

Before I leave I thought I’d share my top insights for success from the valley in the hope that if we all taken a human centred focus in building our teams, we’ll build; happier, more successful, more durable places to work and invent.

Here goes:

1. Your first people are the biggest decisions you will ever make so set your foundations strong.
2. Build for people and embrace the friction that this causes to your business models and frameworks. People and the diversity they bring will only better and enrich so if something is getting in their way, break it down and rebuild it so it enhances them another abilities.
3. Back people and then back markets for they are the only consistencies in a world that shifts constantly.
4. Be prepared to back your entrepreneurs no matter what for they will cause the best ‘Good Trouble’.
5. Size for ‘Pizza Box’ teams. If your team can’t happily share a pizza then it’s too big and decisions won’t get made in the right way and work will be layered and complicated, keep it lean, lean in and everyone will have a fair slice.
6. Build progression around 50/50 goals so that you stretch yourself and your team to aim high for the 50% they will hit and learn quickly from the 50% they will miss.
7. Be open to talent shifts and support them where you can, no one likes to be a square peg in a round hole and the cross population of skills will stabilise growth.
8. Know every factor in your ecosystem and the relative value of it (which if you follow the above will be human focused) so you can make informed decisions with reduced risk quickly.
9. Be open to crazy ideas as they’ll probably be the best ideas you ever hear.

I’m happy to say I do most of this, but I’m definitely going to action point 6 immediately as I love this thinking and I think my teams will too.

What will you do from tomorrow?

 

San Francisco

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#OurEra2018

I’m in Milan at the Nesta ‘Challenge of our Era’ 2018 Global Summit where I was honored to deliver their opening keynote.

My role was to inspire innovative thinking, it was honestly one of the most rewarding speeches I’ve delivered to date, so again thank you!

As part of it, I adapted a poem I wrote a year or so ago for SXSW and I’ve been asked several times to print it and share it, so here it is. For anyone interested search twitter for the hash tag #OurEra2018 to find out more about the summit, it’s got some incredible ambitions and the call for responses is open to anyone in the world.

For now, I leave you with this:

 

The visions for the future excite me more than the past,

Because when it comes to innovation, the past fades fast.

 

I have crazy ideas and I’m proud to be a geek,

Which you’ll know if you go online and maybe read a tweet.

 

And maybe I’ll reply or maybe it’s my bot,

Because maybe I’m real and here, or maybe I’m not.

 

The future isn’t just augmented or virtual you see,

It’s set to be a blend of several realities.

 

And as the future keeps advancing and we become more connected,

We’ll all be liked and rated and ever more self-reflected.

 

Will robots steal our jobs? Will Skynet really happen?

Or is that as likely as a one-handed man clapping?

 

Will tech become so seamless that we won’t be able to tell,

Where I begin, you end, and the tech blends in as well…

 

Today we pay with fingerprints, tomorrow our voice

In the future, our faces, will this remove our choice

 

To have our lives in the cloud, seamlessly connected

Will we be faster, more efficient, or will our memories be neglected?

 

In a future where every heartbeat and every drop of sweat,

Is calculated, decoded and uploaded to the net.

 

When connected collars tell us when our dogs have got a fever,

Or our cats can be interpreted through intelligent receivers.

 

When AI Armani jeans tell guys ‘you’re flying low’,

Your Valentino clothing knows you’re stressed from head to toe.

 

Your Maserati, or Romeo, isn’t just autonomous but flies,

In highways constructed over Milan in the Sky.

 

In the future are we dumb? Just run by automation…

Or are we elite and empowered an unstoppable ‘one nation’?

 

In OUR future we WILL stand beside robots that are intelligent,

But furthermore, we face a future that goes beyond this and is sentient.

 

There will be competition, co-petition, ambition, and decision

But convergence and empowerment will come to fruition.

 

If biology is programmable and we can program 3D printing,

Will we solve poverty and hunger, now that got me thinking…

 

If a world built on noughts and ones merges with atoms,

Does that provide a world that you and I can barely fathom?

 

If we can put interfaces into brains and quadriplegics can move cursors,

Will we enhance that human life, is the advance in science worth it?

 

There are so many things that today we do not know,

But if we supercharge our neurons there’s nowhere a brain can’t go.

 

Whether this presentation makes you doubt, smile or wonder,

There is one thing for sure that we should collectively ponder;

 

How can innovation be a force for positivity and help us prosper?

How can it bring us closer so that great ideas are fostered?

 

To quote Einstein ‘it’s obvious it’s exceeded humanity’

And he’s been dead for decades so it’s pretty clear to see,

 

That the trajectory we’re on isn’t slowing down,

And in fact, with quantum computing, we can go to town.

 

I for one would rather be in the driving seat,

Amongst you crazy bunch of awesome innovators and geeks.

 

For the ONE thing about the future that we should ALL be aware

Is love it question it, WE are ALL going there …

 

And we can choose to lead or we can choose to follow

So I say, let’s grab the future by the balls and go invent tomorrow!!!

 

 

COOE

#OurEra2018 Nesta Global Summit, Milan

 

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Monetising Virtual Reality

I’m on the train back from a conference where I was privileged enough to be part of a panel alongside top guys from the BBC, Unity and Dubit, we discussed and interrogated the money making roadmap for Virtual Reality (VR).

It was interesting and much fun, not least because it’s something I believe is here to stay (no surprise to those of you that follow me), but eyebrow raising too in that the focus across the industry is steering quickly to ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) rather than considering the fact that we haven’t really nailed the craft, purpose or immersion factor yet.

I was asked afterwards by several people; ‘What are your top tips for getting into VR and where is the money?’ (mainly in the same breath) and so thought I’d distill the panel into a post… here goes.

First things first; as with any good content (or business), a VR experience is only as good as the idea(s) at the core. Crack a brilliant concept first and the money will follow (one way or another). During my career I’ve worked for some of the top agencies in the world, of these two spring to mind; one was focused on money first and idea second, another ideas first and money second. The latter is acing it, the first is arguably losing it’s identity, staff and direction. Enough said.

Secondly, again you’ll see the parallel here; you have to build trust. Trust in the medium is growing but headsets aren’t about to fly off the shelf just yet, it’s a slow burn but it will reap it’s reward.  The ‘jazz hands’ have been and gone, the next phase on the roadmap is about creating brilliant and relevant experiences, VR is about immersion not reach. Get this bit right and scale (therefore money) will follow.

Third up; consider the right investment and return model. You can; create an app based service and tie subscription to it, you can launch with experiential then move to freemium and start an economy of scale from there, you can take an AR in-road with an upgrade model, sponsorships, partnerships, branded content… as with any new medium there are many money making ways. However, as with any medium, one will apply to your objectives more than the other. Explore and choose carefully.

It’s a bit ABC but thats because really truly, the basics aren’t actually all that complicated. The playground is big, experimentation is happening, trailblazers are lighting up the way. Those that keep their head but jump in and concentrate on; brilliance, trust and effectiveness (in that order), will be the ones to make their millions in this medium.

See you there.

Minecraft Money

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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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