Thursday, December 24, 2009

your christmas message from never get out of the boat

'Reindeer sleigh, come our way, HO HO HO, cherry nose, cap on head, suit that's red, special night, beard that's white, must be Santa...'

Never has a children's christmas ditty been delivered with such...erm...menace.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.
I'll be back battling mediocrity after the break.

Aung San Suu Kyi

The cynic in me wonders if this is exploitative bullshit, but on the other hand the continued imprisonment of elected Burmese President Aung San Suu Kyi is an issue that needs any exposure as it can get, virtually ignored as it is by western governments, so we will give Chrysler the benefit of the doubt for the meantime.

this beer is mental

I'm loving everything about the Scottish independent brewery BrewDog.
The style, the brand, the philosophy, the disruption, the attitude.
There is nothing mediocre about these guys.

They say:
Our beers are in no way commercial or mainstream.
We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness.
We are unique and individual.

With beers named 77 Lager, Trashy Blonde, Punk IPA and Hardcore IPA what's not to love?

Last month they also launched the strongest beer in the world, the Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

Weighing in at an ABV of 32%, BrewDog’s ‘Tactical Nuclear Penguin’ beats the previous record of 31% held by German beer brand Schorschbraer.

And with their offshoot label punkdog they can offer personalised labelled beers.

Also through the Equity for Punks share scheme, they are looking for 10,000 fans to become part of the journey.

The web-ness was created by Aberdeen agency Hampton Associates, good work chaps.
I shall be cracking open a couple of Punk IPA's in your honour over the festives.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

who killed bambi?

Poor X Factor winner Joe McElderry, robbed of his moment in the Christmas spotlight by a bunch of grungers from more than a decade past.

Gentle pretty thing
Who only had one spring
You bravely faced the world
Ready for anything

One cannot argue with the numbers:
X Factor with around 4 months of prime time telly pulling in 19million for the final show and uncalculable mainstream media coverage via daytime tv, newspapers etc rustled up 450,000 sales of Bambi’s ditty.


The Rage Against The Machine's 'fan' driven ‘campaign’ built up initially on Facebook with around 750,000 sign-ups where around 500,000 followed through with their 79p. In any marketing-speak; as a conversion rate it looks good.

What’s also interesting is that the X Factor itself had a sizeable social media backchannel through the duration, particularly real-time commentary on Twitter.

The idea to subvert the Christmas chart spread like wildfire because it adhered to some of the basic principles of ‘viral-ness’.

1 - It was easy to understand – buy the track within a certain time frame, if enough people do it, it will achieve it’s goal.

2 - It polarised opinion – You are eitheir ‘for’ or ‘against’ the idea.

3 - It was easy to participate – there was only a couple of things to do, pass on the idea and buy the song.

4 - It’s all about me – The participants have to WANT it to spread, participation makes a social statement about ME (I’m about proper music vs manufactured pop).

Meanwhile every Tom, Dick, Harry and Social Media Expert jumps on the Rage ‘victory’ as being vindication and proof of the corresponding ‘victory’ of social media over broadcast media ‘marketing’.

While it’s another case study in the continuing shift in control from broadcaster/brand to the users - and both wee Joe and RATM playing the role of social objects in a groundswell - from a music perspective it’s a bit depressing.

I made my peace with the X Factor some months ago once I realised it had nothing whatsoever to do with music.

As in life, in that for there to be good there must be corresponding evil, so also for there to be music there must be anti-music.

When I was a nipper we had a saying about Top of the Pops – ‘every Thursday until you die’. Tip of the Poops died out first, but the likes of X Factor are it’s natural replacement.

The Top 40 was the last bastion of the TOTP era, this latest subversion is surely one of the final nails in it’s coffin.

But If I were a Rage fan I’d be a bit miffed at ‘my band’ being reduced to mere spectacle, The biggest selling song of the year, yet any meaning reduced to it’s ‘symbolic’ interplay as a social device in a cod-situationist spoof.

The irony, of course, being that a 5th consecutive Christmas number one from the Cowell stable is not much of a story. This weeks events made sure that X Factor was still newsworthy.

So what happens next?

Bambi will surely be number one next week as – in another irony – the social media ‘campaign’ fireworks burst and go dark.

And we look forward to another 51 weeks of corporate hip hop, sanitised r’n'b, careerist pop and wishy-washy do-gooder rock at the top of the charts.

Which no proper music fan pays attention to anyway.

In 1977 when the Sex Pistols released their single ‘God Save the Queen’ it entered the UK chart at number one . That week the top 40 was the the Top 39 as the chart publishers refused to even list the song that had polarised a nation in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee week.

But then, you knew I was going to dig that one out...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

london calling at the top of the dial

Unbelievably it's 30 years ago this week since the Clash released their 'difficult' 3rd album London Calling. Still the greatest of all time IMHO.

I can still remember legging it down to The Other Record Shop in Aberdeen after school - fiver in hand - to buy it.

The Clash were famously in debt to CBS for many years due to the fan friendly price point.

A fiver for a double LP in 1979 was commercial suicide for a band relying on major label funding for recording, production, manufacturing and distribution.

Whereas now a band can give the music away for free and make more money, without compromising the connection with true fans.

The Clash were, of course, masters of branding.
Not marketing tricks (they often failed at that) - but having a single, ownable brand idea and sticking with it, building the story (or myth)at every touchpoint, but having an inclusive story that the audience could feel ownership of.

I'm reminded of Tom Peters' top 5 brand questions.

1 - WHO are YOU?
2 - WHY are YOU here?
3 - How are YOU UNIQUE?
5 - WHO CARES about you?

This Jon Savage nugget easily answered all of those questions.

'The first thing that needs to be said is that the Clash’s legend is deserved. After the middle of 1977, when the Sex Pistols became remote, stalled in outrage, the Clash became the leading UK punk rock group: it fell to them to articulate, advise (for that was in their nature) and galvanise the energies of a new and rapidly growing rock community. Like the Sex Pistols, their ambitions went beyond music: they aimed to dramatise a city – London – and a country in crisis. As their name baldly stated, they were programmed for confrontation, contradiction and conflict – and they got all three in spades.'

Below is a Mick's 'hilarious' take on what constitutes a 'sell-out'.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

next evolution of direct mail?

What if you could apply web style 'spam filtering' to your physical letterbox?

Enter Sendsocial...

I've summarised the decription from springwise.

'Users simply tell SendSocial the Twitter ID or email address of the person they'd like to send a letter or package.

SendSocial then sends a request to the intended recipient to get their approval.

Only if that person agrees to accept the delivery does SendSocial get their address details; it does not, however, share that information with the person on the sending end.

The sender, meanwhile, is then informed that the mailing can proceed.'

Again demonstrating web behaviour transference into the physical world, and the trend towards consumers taking control and protecting of their own data.

Is this the start of an evolution of direct mail?

HT to Litmanlive via Twitter.

the product IS the marketing #743

What could be more engaging at Christmas - after dinner and the Queens speech, of course - than having all the family gather round with a glass of sherry and play a game of Guess Poo. The classic 'flip and find the faces' game, is now the classic 'flip and find the faeces' game.

I confidently predict that this will be the number two christmas game this year.

Created by QuinkyArt
HT and finders fee to Alec East

Saturday, December 05, 2009

digital comb-overs and part-time punks

I thought everyone was up to speed with the 'digital comb-over' thing coined the other week by Jeremiah Owyang?

He says:
'Many companies are entering the social/green/community space, with hopes of impressing customers, yet despite their best intentions, they could come across as inauthentic, and be damaging their own brand.'

The new marketing and social-everything is a committment to changing the way stuff is done. (Im)permanently. Not a badge to stick on when it suits or a few buzzwords to ping around.

You have to mean it, man. Or else you're just a part timer.

It's fine to fake it until you make it, but to just fake it will fool no-one.

'They play their records very loud - They pogo in the bedroom - In front of the mirror - But only when their mum's gone out'
'Here they come - La la la la laaa la - La la la la laaa la - The part time punks'

I wanted to illustrate this with a vid of said tune by The Television Personalities but there's not one on You Tube.

I did, however, find this version by a cool multi-instrumentalist 8 year old kid called Dennis.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

help bobby

Game developers 36peas alerted some key gamer types to the launch of their Christmas 'Pheasant plucker' iphone game with this cute bit of intrigue in the mail.

HT to Muir from realtimeworlds

wrote for luck

Golf legend and (it has to be pointed out) style icon, Gary Player famously said, in response to a call from the crowd speculating that his near perfect drive was a lucky shot, 'yeah, and the more i practice the luckier I get'.

The interesting thing about that quote is how - in the pressure situation of a masters golf tournament - GP felt relaxed enough to respond in a cool way with some style and wit.

No-one got a 4 wood wrapped round their neck.

Why is it some people seem to be more lucky than others?
Perhaps it's skill rather than pure chance.

Richard Wiseman in this old article from the Telegraph certainly subscribes to that view.

'My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.'

In a nutshell the key to good fortune is about relaxation, being open to the unexpected, trusting your gut and being alert to opportunities as they arise.

As a youngster I let many opportunities pass by, principally due to being erm, let's say 'distracted'. As i've got older and more mindful I'm finding that my 'luck' has tended to improve.

Here's Wisemans 3 techniques to develop which will maximise good fortune:

1 - Unlucky people often fail to follow their intuition when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches. Lucky people are interested in how they both think and feel about the various options, rather than simply looking at the rational side of the situation. I think this helps them because gut feelings act as an alarm bell - a reason to consider a decision carefully.

2 - Unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine. They tend to take the same route to and from work and talk to the same types of people at parties. In contrast, many lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives. For example, one person described how he thought of a colour before arriving at a party and then introduced
himself to people wearing that colour. This kind of behaviour boosts the likelihood of chance opportunities by introducing variety.

3 - Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. In one interview, a lucky volunteer arrived with his leg in a plaster cast and described how he had fallen down a flight of stairs. I asked him whether he still felt lucky and he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before. As he pointed out, he could have broken his neck.

Props to Buddhajones.

bash it out now, tart it up later

He's Jesus of Cool, Nick the Knife and the Abominable Showman amongst other things.

A bit of Wednesday love to the (relatively) unsung godfather of punk, Nick Lowe.
Producer of The Feelgoods, The Damned, Elvis Costello and many more, plus one of the finest songwriters this country has seen.

He earned the nickname 'Basher' from his production style:

'bash it out now, tart it up later'

A methodology I continue to apply to much of my work, to this day.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

the first taste

If, like me, you've been glamoured by the HBO series 'True Blood' (I'm mid-way through season2) you'll be pleased to know that the blood substitute drink, Tru Blood, 'enjoyed' by the more 'mainstreaming' vampires is also available as a logical brand extension for humans.

I love the drinkaware-esque cautionary line 'HBO reminds Vampires to drink responsibly'.

Sadly, not available in the UK yet :(

'Bill, you were just licking blood out of my head. I don't think it gets much more personal than that.'

all-encompassing mystical entity vs microsoft word

If this post seems to flow effortlessly with serenity and peace it's because I'm writing using Ommwriter, a text processing application created by creative agency Herraiz Soto & Co.

You will never go back to Word after using this...

What they say:
'Ommwriter is a humble attempt to recapture what technology has snatched away from us: our capacity to concentrate.

Ommwriter is a simple text processor that firmly believes in making writing a pleasure once again, reinvindicating the close relationship between writer and paper. The more intimate the relation, the smoother the flow of inspiration.'

Check it in the vid.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

#NEoN 09

Thanks to Scottish Enterprise and Abertay University who invited me to do a talk at the NEoN Digital Arts Festival in Dundee the other week.

As one of the world centres for video game design and development, Dundee is home to Realtimeworlds, of Grand Theft Auto, Lemmings and more recently, the double-BAFTA winning, multi-million seller Crackdown (and soon to be released APB, subject of much excited babble at NEoN).

Also Denki, creators of much of the game content on Sky interactive and DirecTV in the US and the much anticipated Quarrel for Xbox which will debut in 2010.

Among the many other speakers i caught the session with legendary Pixar animator Bud Luckey (who was in the same hotel as me). While Bud is best known for his work on the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, the Incredibles etc he cut his teeth in the ad business with the likes of Tony the Tiger and also early Sesame street (his viruoso banjo skizzles in full effect).

I also heard Mark Daniels of New Media Scotland give some exposure to the many interactive arts projects thriving in Scotland, including the BAFTA winning Cybraphon (from Edinburgh-based artist collective FOUND) an interactive mechanical 'band in a box'. The Cybraphon’s performance is affected by online sentiment as it trawls the web for reviews and comments about itself.

Previous memories of Dundee principally involved being ambushed en route to the railway station by the Hilltoon huns from Dens Park and Tannadice following 'New firm' clashes in the late 80's, but Dundee is an altogether more cultured city these days.

Where else could have a statue of Desperate Dan on the main street?
Looking forward to my next visit.

Monday, November 16, 2009

slow week for news

They just don't get it.

Consumers 'don't trust' social network sites: 'According to exclusive research for Marketing magazine by Lightspeed Research, only 33% of consumers trust social networking sites to provide the detailed independent information they need to make purchasing decisions, with 23% not trusting them.
That compares to 68% who trust other online sources of information such as search, product review and price comparison sites (with only 5% not trusting).'

It must have been a slow week for news over at Marketing magazine for this to be the headline story.
Have you read a more vacuous, ignorant and just plain stupid statement this year?
Who goes to a social networking site looking for 'detailed independent product information'? That's not what they are for. And what are 'other online sources'?
Who writes product reviews? Usually other people.
Do you trust search? Or what you find?

This is minor bullshit but it's the kind of thing that a few clients/sceptics/curmudgeons/sheepwalkers read that then sets us back months as they scurry back to the familiar and mediocre, digital comb-overs still just about intact.

artvinyl 2009

A wise man once said 'You cannot skin-up on an mp3'. This is very true, for that purpose you need a 12" cardboard record sleeve. Some these sleeves also come as rather tasty bits of graphic design.

Every year select 50 of the outstanding examples of sleeve design and ask us to pick a winner. 2009 voting is open now at the artvinyl site.

Of the 50 excellent pieces, my money is on the sleeve for Jarvis Cocker's Rough Trade album 'Further complications', designed by Jarvis himself with long-time Pulp collaborator, and Designers Republic founder Ian Anderson.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

this is pop #35

Turns out there is a scientific reason why fizzy pop tastes better out of a glass bottle.
This, and many more secrets of the soda trade revealed by John Nese of Galcos Soda Pop Stop in LA - the ultimate soda-lovers destination with over 500 niche soda pop brands on the shelves.

This guy knows what he is doing and why he is doing it.

finders fee to Dodds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

inane drivel

You'll, no doubt, be pleased - as indeed I was - to know that National Car Parks have got Christmas 'all wrapped up'.

Yes,'tis the season for inane drivel.

Brands with nothing to say, suddenly feel the need to add to the noise with pointless non-communications, usually incorporating some kind of 'amusing' festive language.

'Yule' be sure to see plenty more 'tree-mendous' 'crackers' like this in the coming weeks...[take one of your tablets, now - Ed]

Friday, November 06, 2009

remembering to be mindful

In this advertising/marketing business we tend to not spend enough time thinking about the stuff that really matters, the human being stuff, creating value and meaning, but a lot of time thinking about the abstract stuff: strategy, data, ROI etc.
Focussing on outcomes and getting stuff done rather than processes and asking 'why?'.

That's what I get out of Hugh's cartoon.
It's kinda about 'mindfulness'. Being present. Not being distracted.
Mindfulness itself isn't difficult. What's difficult is remembering to be mindful.

top of the world

No reason for posting this other than it's ridiculously happy.
The mighty Shonen Knife do the Carpenters.
Not sure why there are English subtitles though...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

one of these things is not like the other things.

How can we, as consumers, with limited attention and infinite choices choose a product from a overcrowded, commoditised market of same old sameness?

Disruption lesson over, thanks cookie monster and happy birthday Sesame Street.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

fake it to make it

There's a great piece of advice I heard around how to climb Mount Everest.

Start at the bottom and keep climbing until you reach the top.

The theory is easy, the practice is somewhat more difficult.

How should brands meaningfully participate in social networks and social media?
Look for situations where you can create value, and be relevant then start doing something.

The theory is easy, the practice is somewhat more difficult.

There's a series of TED from last year featuring talks about urgent need for a new focus on compassion. That series was the forerunner to the launch of the Charter For Compassion which launches later this month.

Among the initial talks that precede the Charter was one from Swami Dayananda Saraswati

He asks 'How do we, as a world, start to demonstrate real compassion, practically, politically, socially and economically'.

The answer is simple. How do you learn to swim? By swimming.
How do you learn to ride a bike? By riding.

But his killer nugget comes right at the end.

You have to fake it to make it.

To be compassionate you have to start acting compassionate. Even if it feels forced at the beginning. It then becomes a natural behaviour over time.

This is sometimes known as a positive feedback loop.

So back to brands in social networks and social media?
Look for situations where you can create value, and be relevant then start doing something.

Fake it to make it. Start doing it, act as though you want to create value, act as though you are being authentic and relevant. Act as though customer is a priority and over time the interdependent benefits are apparent and it becomes real.

The theory is easy, the practice is somewhat more difficult.

Friday, October 30, 2009

passion is a fashion?

Marketing starts from the inside out.
This is something that is often forgotten.

Do the employees believe in your product or service?
Are they buying in 100% to the brand?
Is there a purpose or meaning that the workers can connect with?
Is the brand saying one thing outwardly but internally not walking the talk?

This came up in an email ping pong this week with Petar

We've discussed the idea of how brands can participate in the social web many times here and always come back to the notion of creating value in situations where the brand can be relevant.

In the workplace is where this starts.

Here's my diagram of the 3 kinds of advocacy.

1 - Customers
This is the no-brainer, and where the focus often stops.
Satisfied customers are loyal and will keep buying. Though there is both passive and active loyalty (passive loyalists are equally likely to stick or split if they get better 'value' elsewhere)

2 - Fans
Fans are the 20% or so of customers who absolutely love what you do, and will happily tell others about it. though fans may not actually be customers (fans of luxury brands for instance may not have the actual economic situation to be owners - this is where low cost brand extentions come in handy, but thats another story).

3 - Evangelists
This is the trick that's often missed.
This week Seth said:
'Every industry has people who are worth more, buzz more, care more and buy more than other people. Don't treat people the same, find the ones that matter more to you, and hug them.'
Marketing starts from the inside out.
Do the employees believe in your product or service?
If they do then it's the best word-of-mouth tool you've got.
If they dont?
I'm sure we have all experienced this, chatting to someone who works for company x and being told ' I wouldn't buy product x if i was you, I've seen what goes in it..' or suchlike.

In the same way that great advertising will not save a shit product and a great product can be killed by shit customer service, a brand without meaning, that says one thing outward and another thing inward will not generate those internal evangelists, the ones with the passion...

I spotted this from Spike Jones..
'Passion is contagious. It’s exciting. It fuels word of mouth. And we’ve talked about how it’s no longer a product conversation - it’s no longer about you and what you can do. It’s a passion conversation - it’s about how you fit into people’s lives and how you can be a conduit to their passion. You’re the enabler, not the destination.'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da

In 2002 Busta Rhymes recorded his hit 'Pass the Courvoisier'. In a classic case of unintentional branding, that same year, Courvoisier sales shot up 30% to over 500,000 cases, almost triple the growth rate of the entire cognac category.

With a Whisky brief sitting on my desk, I'm wishing big Phil was still around.
Whisky being an altogether more rock'n'roll experience...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

kasabian football hero

Football and rock'n'roll - culturally connected since forever.

'An experiment to create a giant (three stories high!) guitar game controlled with footballs. Football Hero is played by a team of insanely gifted young freestyle footballers. The game is programmed with the Kasabian track Underdog'

Finders fee to Andy Whitlock.

The tech skinny is at engadget.

royale with cheese

'What you see is what you hear!' This is the bollocks, awesome.
Pulp Fiction audio visual mashed up thing - with some considerable style - produced by a Dutch fella called Robin Koerts.

the great gig in the sky

To promote the screening of 'Pulse', The Floyd's 1994 live performance of Dark Side of the Moon at Earls Court, which was shown on Sky Arts 1 HD last Friday (and again on Monday 16th Nov), Cakegroup created the iconic album cover for Sky Arts using LED lighting and light lasers on Primrose Hill in London, beaming across the London skyline. Epic.

protect me against ads like this

This Dettol ad currently running gives me the creeps. Its Daily Mail-esque shameless exploitation of swine flu fear really grates. Plus that wee girl has an evil look, like those twins in the Shining or something. Someone needs shot for this.

Protect Against Cold & Flu Virus

Monday, October 26, 2009

living in the lights

'Living in the Lights' is a short film made by Bandito Brothers for the BMW M3. For those who remember 'the Hire' series from back in the day, it's in that vein.

Slightly guileless of BB to infer 'Me and my bros went out and shot a film over the weekend about my car' on their YouTube page, when it is clearly BMW 'branded content' but tasty content none the less..

bird is the word

I sat on a panel next to the fantastic Trey Pennington at SMiB last friday and marvelled at his ability to answer audience questions whilst power tweeting at the same time without even a blink.

If he could do the dance too I'd be even more impressed, though the singer here looks to be in an advanced state of SMEBS...

this is pop

This Last Supper was created by 5 artists at Toronto based Cube Works, using over 4000 Rubiks cubes (check out some of their other Warhol homage pieces including Marilyn, Mao and Campbell's soup).

I mention Warhol homage but the Cube works style is probably more akin to Roy Lichtenstein's Benday dots appropriation, eh art anoraks?

Though, as Jeremy from Popped culture rightly asks;
'Do you think they arranged the sides by hand, or just removed the blocks and/or stickers to arrange them the way they wanted?'

brand as platform

The Autodesk Sketchbook mobile for iphone takes scribbling in a moleskin or similar into another dimension altogether, akin to a mini Photoshop in your pocket.

HT to Brian Phipps from the Brands Create Customers blog who says (of the iphone as a platform for innovation):

'When a brand becomes a platform its virtues radiate in a hundred directions. They spark more innovations, often in distant quarters, then fold back to raise the platform even higher.'

Sunday, October 25, 2009

sound affects

A great, if short, TED talk from Julian Treasure, brand sound consultant type at the Sound Agency.

I was knocked out by one of his nuggets.

Apparently open-plan offices are 66% less productive environments.
How many of us work in these spaces? A lot methinks.

Headphone manufacturers take note, thats a clear insight/benefit for your next marketing effort.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

working 9 to 5

Some interesting stats from The Customer Strategy magazine website re: workplace flexibility.

One of my favourite moans is around the idea that we have been conned by the internet revolution, back in the early 90's I was convinced that by 2009 I would be directing things virtually from a lone organic croft in the highlands not filing in and out of London every day on the disease ridden tube ;)

- 81% of UK small business owners say flexible hours are key to business success, followed by online working (46%)

- 39% of UK small business owners would allow employees to work remotely if they asked for the option

- Flexible hours tops list of benefits small business owners believe will attract the best talent

- 1 in 5 UK employees would take a pay cut in favour of flexible working

- 54% of London workers are forced to travel into work, despite 47% saying they could be just as productive working from home

“It’s especially encouraging that small business owners are demonstrating a forward-looking approach to flexible working, considering they make up 99% of UK businesses."

Brett Caine, general manager of Remote Access tech providers Citrix Online.

'Tumble outta bed, and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition, yawnin, stretchin, try to come to life'

Dolly Parton

Monday, October 19, 2009

meeting request

If I could hack Entourage (or insert mail client of choice here) and change one thing it would be the 'meeting request' function. I would add in some sort of priority hierarchy to meetings.

Looking back at my diary from last week shows I spent over 40% of my working day in meetings. Meetings to decide what to do vs time spent actually doing stuff.

A lesson could be learned from The Sopranos. There's 3 quick kinds of meetings that solve most of the day-to-day problems and reduce the the need for Meeting Meetings.

1 - The Sit-down.
On point and fast, a sit down deals with one specific issue, usually when there are two opposing points of view. Situation described, alternatives weighed-up, decision made.

2. The Stand up
Usually small group, there's no need to book a room or type up an agenda. It's not even really a meeting. 90% of the decisions that need to get made could be done in this way. I'm sure the expression 'think on your feet' comes from this kind of thing.

3. The Chat
Super fast and happens wherever it happens. Person 1 has a question, person 2 gives answer. End of chat.

Over to you Microsoft.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

decisions decisions

From Seths's blog the other day:
It doesn't have to be a wise decision or a perfect one. Just make one.
In fact, make several. Make more decisions could be your three word mantra.
No decision is a decision as well, the decision not to decide. Not deciding is usually the wrong decision.

Me, a couple of weeks back (with help from Tony Soprano)..
Sitting on your hands costs sales and customers.
The world is not waiting for us figure out what to do.
The wrong decision is better than indecision.

Me and Seth, we're like that ;)

Friday, October 09, 2009


One of my favourite soundbites from Trainspotting (by the main character, Renton) goes something like:

'It's SHITE being Scottish!...Some hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONISED by wankers. We can't even find a decent country to be colonised BY'

A relatively minor niggle that never ceases to irk is when you hear Great Britain refered to generically as 'England'

With that in mind, I was bemused by this weeks new media age cover story around the exclusive screening of the England v Ukraine World Cup qualifier via ppv on the web rather than tv.

One would think the sub ed at nma would have access to the google machine should he have any difficulty with geography, but no. The line reads..
'With the UK VERSUS UKRAINE game getting no tv coverage, are people ready for live sports streaming'...

UK V Ukraine?

Thanks, but no thanks. Scotland are out and we'll deal with it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The fella who famously said 'half of my advertising budget is wasted..I just don't know which half' must be getting even more perplexed.

Two headline stories last week.
The IAB reports that 'The internet now accounts for 23.5% of all advertising money spent in the UK, while TV ad spend accounts for 21.9% of marketing budgets.'

Cue mass web v tv hysteria on twitter...

Interesting, but on further investigation (and I tip the hat to Simon Kendrick who done the digging so we don't have to) the growth in online advertising is propelled on the whole by search not display (so get back in yer box digital advertising types - display accounts for less than 20% of said online spend)

Serving only to confuse matters even further is the story from Adage that 'the number of people online who click display ads has dropped 50% in less than two years, and only 8% of internet users account for 85% of all clicks'

In reality, we all know that click thru is the most bollocks of measurement anyway, and the ratio points at something in the area of classic 80/20 rule, so no big deal.
And, again, averages really tell us nothing. Response levels and degrees of engagement are going to vary by industry sector (and by creative use of the format).

Ads that offer meaningful interaction and deliver return on interest for the user are going to be more effective. Boring, shit ads will not. End of.

I commented on Simons piece that as more and more ad supported media moves online (tv, newspapers, music, films, books etc etc) it stands to reason that ad spend will shift.
What would be MORE interesting would be to find out portion of total marketing budgets are moving from paid-for advertising spend (all media) to ‘other’ activities that tip sales in active evaluation, like customer service, utility and service driven activity.
That would be a real story.

Finally classic quote from Danish sage and former Aberdeen FC boss, Ebbe Skovdahl..

'Statistics are just like mini-skirts, they give you good ideas but hide the most important thing.'

Saturday, October 03, 2009

happy birthday gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi born this day in 1869. Quite rightly honoured by google today.
Always good value for a quote of the day...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

incorporation and commodification of subculture

As social media continues it's 'incorporation' into the mainstream I'm reminded of the 2 strategies commonly employed by the establishment (or petit-bourgeois, if you like – hence the nod to Barthes) in dealing with the 'other'.

The following has been largely influenced by sections of 'Subculture' by Dick Hebdige, a study of UK youth subcultures from the 50's to late 70's (a fantastic academic book. Fairly unique among academic writing in that it is actually readable for mere mortals)

First plan of the establishment is often to attempt to transform the 'other' into meaningless 'exotica'.
This is what Barthes describes as ‘pure object, spectacle, a clown’
Examples of this were the mainstream media outrage around 'facebook riots' (you know the drill, party invite goes up on facebook - 10,000 kids trash the house) add to that the, particularly bizzare, willing self-commodification by 'social media experts' trapped in some perpetual groundhog day of vacuous pontification about personal branding.

Or, secondly the ‘other’ is trivialised. What was 'otherness' is reduced to 'sameness'.
We can see this in the twitter-columns in the newspapers, who's main focus is highlighting what mainstream media celebrities are saying about each others divorces.
In effect a 'transmedia' amplification of the gossip magazines and daytime tv ;)

Advertising is of course now appearing to 'embrace' of social media (hey, it's all just 'media' now...) and the ultimate accolade for the first 'wave' of 'new media' celebrities is to be published in book form.

Note: I will undoubtably change my view on this the minute the phone rings or twitter tweets from a book publisher 'outreach'...

This incorporation minimises the ‘otherness’ and then ultimately defines the subculture in exactly the terms which it originally sought to resist in the first place. 'Punk' couture anyone? Acid house ad soundtracks? Phoney 'youtube' style tv ads?

So, as soon as the innovations that signified a subculture (web 2.0) are translated into commodities and become everyday they lose meaning, ie what were subcultural 'signs' become mass produced stuff.
What began by being symbolic as challenges (the 'other'), end up becoming the new conventions (#moonfruit anyone?).

'I believe in this, and it's been tested by research. He who f*cks nuns, will later join the church..'

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

turd polishing

Theres a well know phrase 'nothing ruins good advertising quicker than a bad product' [source needed?].
With that in mind I enjoyed an nugget in neuroscience by Roger Dooley around Brand authenticity.

Roger says:
'The simple message is that today it makes no sense to waste money on polishing a brand that has underlying product problems. The mismatch between the brand message and the real consumer experience will surface sooner rather than later, and that dissonance may actually make things worse. Fix the product first, THEN worry about branding.'

Good point but it's deeper than that. If we agree that what a brand does is more important than the message then we are talking about value creation. Ethics, even.

So in looking for the elusive ROI on creating value in situations we should consider the behaviour that flows from these ethics and what it contributes the kind of society we live in. The big picture.

Unethical business practices and crappy products have direct economic consequences.
Simple example: Using crappy materials in foods (we've all seen the chicken factory documentaries) peoples' health is at risk.
There's the knock on of medical costs then, of course, these people work less efficiently, have time off sick causing a decline in productivity etc etc

Someone once said to me 'thinking in straight lines will keep you going round in circles.'

If we only focus on the linear progression of the economic events we forget that 'nature unfolds in all directions'. Economics, advertising and products are part of one vast interconnected whole thing, subject to the same natural laws as everything else.

One of the biggest mistake we as agencies make is chasing anything with a budget, but often it pays to remember you cannot polish a turd.


'In learning this path, it is only important to walk on the real ground, to act on the basis of reality. The slightest phoniness, and you fall into the realm of demons.'

from The Pocket Zen Reader

Monday, September 28, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about social media

For any readers in the Cambridgeshire area (Huntingdon, to be exact) this Friday (October 2nd), there's an opportunity to take in David Cushman - of Brando Social and Faster Future - giving a seminar on 'Everything you ever wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask'.

David will cover over the basics of the 'media' part - messaging; transmission; how content is created and distributed and also the'social' side: how the idea of 'communities of purpose' is disrupting and reconfiguring everything we do - from processes within organisations to politics, education, economics and beyond.

It's at Huntingdon Library, Princes St.
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 3PA
Last few tickets are available from

Use the discount code 'Fastercommunity' for 33% off, though I understand there's only a handful of tickets left.

advanced power point ninja

A useful little power point ninja tip i picked up the other week.

If during your presentation you want to pause for a bit of discussion or you want to talk for a bit without any picture or words distracting the audience, and keep them focussed on you just hit the B character on the keyboard. This turns the screen black. When you want to start again hit B and, bingo, back comes the picture.

This also helps you assert a bit of authority on the room. While the screen is black they can talk but bring back the picture is the cue for the audience to shut up again and listen.

W also works, it turns the screen white.
If the presso is going really well and you want to start a party, B and W in quick succession will give you a cheap and dirty strobe effect.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Four bases of social harmony (sangahavatthu)

1. Generosity
2. Kindly speech
3. Service
4. Participation

Buddhist Economics: P. A. Payutto

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the wrong customers

This will be a familiar story...

Brand X makes a decent product that has a relatively small slice of it's category, enough to tick over but could always do with growing a bit more.

Brand X, unfortunately, are prone to committing the number one biggest mistake in marketing. They continually look at things from their own perspective, rather than their customers.

And Brand X have recently discovered, the WRONG people are buying their product.
This annoys conceited Brand X because these customers that they DO have, don't match the image the brand has of itself.

Brand X squanders the small amount of marketing budget it does have on trying to change the behaviour it's 'target market' (in this case a bunch of people who sadly, are not remotely interested) to buy a product they don't want.

A far better idea for delusional Brand X would be:
Find out why the people who are buying, ARE buying.
And find ways sell to more people like them.

Waste time and money continually looking for the 'right' relationship, the one that matches the brand view of the brand? Or cultivate the ones you have already?
Beacause if these 'wrong' customers go elsewhere, what are you left with?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

dinnertime in heaven and hell

Wednesday morning storytime...

'It's dinnertime in heaven and hell.

In both places, meals are served at a huge round table with lots of delicious food in the center. The food is out of reach, however everyone's got really long forks.

In hell, everyone starves because, while they can reach the food with their forks, the forks are much longer than their arms, so nobody can turn a fork around and eat what's on the end of it.

In heaven, faced with the same problem, people eat well. How?

By feeding each other.'

From 'All Together Now: Common Sense for a Fair Economy' Jared Bernstein.

the wine will be flat and the curry's gone cold

An interesting recognition of the 'new' customer buying journey via these posters that have appeared on the tube for online electricals store Dixons.

The cheeky posters mimic the graphical style of posh department stores Selfridges and John Lewis, recognising that people will do their research in the places that give them the most useful information but might not necessarily make the purchase there.

Also the road to purchase is not linear or channel specific.

Of course, if Dixons/currys customer service was up there with that of their competitors mentioned then their high street 'channel' might not be in such a pickle..

finders fees to creative review and @neilperkin via twitter

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

marketing in a recession nugget #523 winston churchill

As a life-long anarcho-socialist it's a tough one for me to be quoting a Tory PM with a family line connected to the aristocracy and English royal family but there you go.

'Gentlemen, we have run out of money, now we shall have to THINK' - Winston Churchill.

Using recession as an opportunity to out-think the competition and be in a different game when the better times arrive. While others are tightening their belts, invent new kinds of trousers, or something.

Monday, September 21, 2009

google street view : japan

Loving this animation from Google Japan, which describes how they collect the data for Street View.

Finders fee BrandDNA

Friday, September 18, 2009

the big picture

Attention to detail is the basics. And there are enough people who can do the details.
There are also those who can do the bigger picture stuff.

Can you do the detail AND the big fucking picture thinking?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

daydream believer

Riddle me this...
In reference to another nugget from the McKinsey 'consumer decision journey' report mentioned a couple of posts ago..

'Our research found that two-thirds of the touch points during the active-evaluation phase involve consumer-driven marketing activities, such as Internet reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, as well as in-store interactions and recollections of past experiences.'

Surely then, proportionately two thirds of marketing budget would be best applied trying to add value and tip sales at those touch points?

If i can dream....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye dig it?

Can't help thinking the whole kerfuffle with corporate rapper Kanye West was an elaborate stunt engineered - a la the Borat/Eminem bottom incident and Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction - in a desperate bid to stir some interest in 1- said irrelevant rapper and 2- these irrelevant, dull-as-dishwater industry (formerly known as the music biz) back-slapping awards. Yawn.
Even the prez has waded in. Phew! Rock'n'roll.
Where's Bill Grundy now?

frankly mr shankly

Quoting Bill Shankly in the previous post led me to this further nugget of wisdom from the great man.

"A lot of football success is in the mind. You must believe that you are the best and then make sure that you are. In my time at Liverpool we always said we had the best two teams in Merseyside, Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."

Shankly also had some insight into the nature of karma, or co-dependent origination if you prefer.

[To Tommy Lawrence after the ball went between his legs and into the goal]

Lawrence: 'Sorry boss I should have kept my legs closed'

Shankly: 'Don't worry son its not your fault, it was your Mother who should have kept her legs closed'

thanks to anfield online.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

'you better cheat, cheat. no reason to play fair'

Re-reading Dan Ariely's 'Predictably Irrational' again. For the uninitiated, Dan is a professor of behavioural economics and the book features his stories of a number of 'experiments' undertaken in order to give a better understanding of the 'hidden' reasons humans behave and make decisions in the way they do.

In one small experiment described in the book, Dan and his colleagues placed 6-packs of Coca Cola in the communal fridges around a university campus. Within 72 hours all of the Coke's had been taken.
They followed this up by placing a plate with six dollar bills in the same fridges (the approximate monetary 'value' of the Cokes.
72 hours later the dosh was still there.

In simple terms Dan's experiment showed that humans have more propensity to 'cheat' or 'steal' items that are once removed from cash rather than actual cash.

That story got me thinking about this mornings story that Arsenal footballer Eduardo has had the 2 match ban imposed by UEFA - for his blatant 'dive' during the Champions League game against Celtic - repealed. Shocker.

In the end Arsenal comfortably won the tie without reliance on the penalty kick Eduardo gained by cheating, however, had the match been delicately poised at 0-0 it could have had wider implications.

I'm sure Eduardo would not have lifted a million quid out of the Parkhead petty cash box had he chanced upon it while limping down the corridor but the stakes are so high in modern football that there is a serious financial implication connected to winning and losing. Eduardo's £100k a week, or whatever, requires Arsenal to be competing in the Champions League, just as Celtic's P&L is hammered by non-qualification.

I'm an Aberdeen supporter, so why should I care about whether Celtic were cheated (and UEFA endorsed cheated) out of a million quid?

Interdependance. Nothing exists in a vacuum.
Celtic's failure to qualify will impact Scottish teams UEFA rankings (and hence the number of European places allocated to the SPL) so a 4th place finish that has previously guaranteed Euro participation may not be enough.

So Eduardo's cheating has potentially taken money out of the Scottish game as a whole (which it can ill-afford).

Dan points out in his book that perhaps the recent financial crash can in some way be connected to the financial fiddlings of yer Enrons being so removed from actual cash transactions that it doesn't feel like real money in real peoples lives or deaths. Hence the greater likelyhood of cheating.

Football is , of course, not a matter of life or death. It's much more important than that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

gurus of marketing #982 lou reed

Sex, style, subversion and 4 chords = rock'n'roll immortality.

'I'm in this business for too long to be halfhearted about anything.'

Thursday, September 10, 2009

influence vs popularity part 3

Back in the day I was involved in some record labels, a loose collective of producers and dj's. This was in the period 89-96 when house/techno was still reasonably underground and left field, before the superclub boom (Cream, MoS etc) of the mid 90's when it all went Pete Tong.

Such was the transient/faddy nature of club music it was important to shift as many copies in the first couple of weeks as possible because after that your track was pretty much finished (unless you got licenced by one of the major labels dance offshoots, but that's another story).

In that upfront period your sales chances were boosted if you could make it onto the Mixmag magazine 'buzz chart' - the top 20 pre-release records as decreed by 'charts' that club djs submitted (bribery of drugs, sex and over-inflated dj fee's to the DMC mafia also helped!) and a good indicator of what the happening tunes in the club chart would be in the coming weeks.

With that in mind it was be a good idea to make white label copies available to dj's, pre-release, in order to get some buzz going. This is standard practice, dj's wanted upfront music before it was in the shops for the general punters to buy.

For the first few releases we compiled a list of the top 50 or so 'influencer' djs to mail out white label copies. These were the guys and girls who regularly headlined on the club circuit, yer Oakenfold, Rampling, Greame Park, Lisa Loud the Flying lot etc etc.

What we soon realised was that despite being the ones with the biggest reach and the biggest percieved influence we got little or no traction from it.
We spent a lot of time and effort trying to convince the big boys and girls to tell our story but of course, so was every other fledgling label in the country (and the world).

When these lot were getting hundreds of free records every week your chances of being the 'tune' that they picked up on was pretty slim.

We soon changed our strategy and began mailing our promos to the little guys. The resident dj's in the small clubs in the unfashionable towns with small networks (fans).
These djs were pleased to recieve free records, played them and charted them, plus they often had day jobs as club music buyers in small record shops so would stock the tunes that were kicking off in their small clubs.

BINGO! - sales.

You can see a win-win situation starting to develop here.

The double whammy is, however, the so called influencer headline djs were more likely to pick up on records that they heard the little guys play, and get massive reaction to than the stuff they were being mailed.

Hence, the little guys djs - despite the smaller reach/network - were in fact more influential than the 'influencers' in the beginning.

So whatʼs better?
1 dj with a ʻreachʼ of 100,000 who might play your tune once?
100 djs with a following of 250 fans who will play your record a lot and talk about your record a lot and have the grass-roots credibility that means the (comparitively) mainstream 'influencers' look to them for the latest fashion?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

first mover advantage...

'Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.'
- Sun Tzu 'The Art of War'

I also like: 'let victory be your main objective, not the conduct of lengthy and costly campaigns'.

there's a hole in my funnel

The recent McKinsey report 'the consumer decision journey' has gained some traction over the last few weeks, not least within G Towers.

Essentially McKinsey argue that the traditional 'funnel' analogy has several holes in it and no longer represents an accurate picture of the 'consumer' route to purchase.

The major spanner in the works has been the rise of consumer empowerment, the web has given consumers unprecedented ability to research and learn about products and services and then make decisions, often independently of marketing and advertising messages and increasingly following recommendations of other people, just like them.

Something we have all been talking about in this space for some considerable time, however it's interesting to see that these ideas are now finally permeating the mainstream.

In summary, McKinsey say:

You have a trigger of some sort (ie recognition of some unmet need), where people start across the decision journey — they are now going to move towards making a purchase.

They call the first stage initial consideration. In many categories, people start off with a fairly narrow list of potential brands.

However, once they move into a stage McKinsey call active evaluation, the number of brands they are considering increases. Which is exactly the opposite of the premise of the traditional funnel, which goes from broad to narrow.

This is the stage when we are intent on purchasing and we are actively researching the product.

Here's where the disconnect happens as much of advertising focuses on 'awareness' and trying to get into the 'initial consideration set', being the and yet, 'when the consumer reaches out during their active evaluation stage, they’re not providing the right facts and testimonials that the consumer is looking for'.

This is where content and consumer-driven marketing comes into it's own as it makes a brand findable, credible, believable and ultimately delivers value during this all important active evaluation phase, where sales are won or lost.

In all, it's conceptually similar to the 'Flipping the funnel' notion of Seth Godin's from a few years ago (turning the funnel into a megaphone so fans/advocates evangelise on behalf of the brand) though - at the risk of excommunication from the Church of Seth - I'm coming round to the idea that Advertising is still important, but in different ways from it's traditional top down role.

1 - in the initial consideration phase to build 'category awareness', before active evaluation, then 'two thirds of the influence came from consumer driven touchpoints — word of mouth, talking to friends and family, searching on the internet.' The other third would still be made up of brand driven communications and touch points, including advertising.

2 - As a 'reminder' in evaluation and, of course, post-purchase reassurance.
An interesting example of this in action is Best Buy, who use Twitter as customer service and almost sales promotion tool and the TV ads advertise that, rather than products or services. I'm thinking the idea is that while in active evaluation you are more likely to pay attention to advertising from brands that have added value, been findable, and been credible during that phase. This encourages active 'loyalty' through service (passive loyalty being the juxtaposition - when a customer will be open to switching based on experiences encountered post-purchase or in evaluation)

So, it's official - there's a hole in the funnel, dear Lisa.
People no longer make buying decisions in a linear way.
People turn to peers, friends, and other users for advice above other media.
The potential number of choices increases in active evaluation.
The more reasons (value) you can give customers to stick or prospects to switch, you win.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

the long and winding road...

One of my favourite Beatles stories describes how Paul McCartney developed the song 'Yesterday'.

Apparently, McCartney had the melody and some makeshift lyrics (Scrambled eggs, oh my darling how I love your legs) kicking around for months. McCartney was forever playing the tune in progress to the other Beatles and George Martin and quizzing them 'what is this tune, where have I heard this before?'.

After some time the others got fed up and instructed him to go off and finish the song.
The result was, of course, one of the most enduring (and covered) songs of that - or any other - era. He had not heard it before, apart from in his own head.

McCarney famously said; 'Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought if no-one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it'.

Inspired by Macca, this week I decided to pitch an idea for a service based mobile application which has been knocking around G Towers for a number of months.

It seemed like such an obvious idea for the category it plays in that we had hesitated to bring it fully to life as we were convinced that it must surely have been done already, such was it's no-brainer-ness.

Many weeks trawling the google machine tells us otherwise so we are going to roll with it.

The lesson seems to be, regarding creative ideas, just go for it.
If it feels good, it is good.

The best ideas, the ones that truly connect, will be the ones that feel like they have always been around anyway, such is their seamless integration into life.

Even if it turns out that it has been done somewhere else, well as my main man Godard says ' It's not where an idea comes from that matters, it's where you take it to'.

Editors note: The Long and Winding Road just seemed like a more descriptive title for the post, ok?