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 marketing.com 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 http://everythingfaster.eventbrite.com

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?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

even if god is dead, you're going to kiss his ass

How - and why - did Tony Soprano die in Holsten’s diner in the final scene of The Sopranos? This incredible series of articles (link below) attempts to clear up one of the 'most misunderstood endings in film or television history'

A thorough examination of the directing and editing in the final scene, a conclusion on what Tony's death 'means', the symbology of Holstenʼs, 'The Godfather', 'Goodfellas' and Kubrick references, 9/11 and the Iraq war and, of course, who killed Tony?

A must read for Sopranos obsessives (wether you agree or disagree).

The Sopranos : definitive explanation of 'The End'

“If you look at the final episode really carefully, itʼs all there.” - David Chase

Finders fee - Tom Himpe via Twitter.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

SMiB Conference London

I'll be doing a turn at the Social Media in Business Conference in London on October 23rd.

The theme is 'conversations matter', I'll be doing something on consumer empowerment, engagement and active evaluation. How purchase decisions are made often independently from marketing and advertising messages and increasingly following recommendations of other people, just like them.

Other contibuters include Chris Hambly, Neville Hobson,Joanne Jacobs, Judith deCabbit Lewis, Benjamin Ellis and Will McInnes.

If there's anyone you know who might be interested then point them to the SMiB site for a butchers.

It's at The Strand Palace Hotel, London, WC2R OJJ

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

ye olde LOLcats

The 19th century was an era of widespread invention and discovery, with significant developments in the understanding or manipulation of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, electricity, and LOLcats.

Who would have thought that search for the origins of the LOLcat would lead us to the site of an olde English public house in the depths of leafy Hampshire?

The picture here of the sign for the former Red Lion pub, in the high street of the small Hampshire town where i live, clearly shows the Lion (biggest of the big cats) bearing a standard with the initials LOL emblazoned on it.

19th Century geeks could be heard muttering 'I can haz gout-burger' as they fiddled with clockwork gyroscopes and guzzled mead in the back room while formulating plans for the industrial revolution and contemplating Antoine-Jean Gros' 'Napoleon Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa'.

what's the new mary jane?

Fast Company reports an 'out-of-business branch' of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Los Angeles has been repurposed as a 'medicinal' marijuana dispensary (a current health trend in California apparently).
The store is called Kind for Cures (geddit?).

This trend has perhaps been influenced by activities in areas of South London where fully functioning fried chicken establishments - and also minicab offices - have embraced the spirit of diversification by sideline trading in marijuana products for many years.

Editors note: For younger readers, What's the New Mary Jane is a 'great' long lost Beatles non-classic recorded around the time of the White Album sessions.