Thursday, March 28, 2013

rat trap

This week Bob Geldof appeared in Sydney to help promote One Young World, a nfp organisation founded by David Jones (Havas/Euro RSCG CEO).

OYW basically seeks to connect and support tomorrow's business leaders with a view to helping them hone their chops through various pro-social business initiatives which they can lead.

In theory the outcome will be a generation of more socially responsible CEOs that operate on the basis of 'doing well by doing good'.

(If Jones is seeking to offset for the fact that he led the campaign that helped deliver Cameron and Clegg into Downing Street is another matter, a significant pro-social effort might allow for regression to the mean in karma terms.)

And Geldof is always good for a soundbite or two.

'Disruptive technologies...shut down my business, the record industry, the book industry and increasingly the newspaper industries which are increasingly redundant.

If it destroyed outdated businesses it also destroyed outmoded logics.

We have to find a different way for this century.'

To be fair they are making all the right noises so yep, it's all good.

The point of this piece is to draw the distinction between social (or 'open') business and pro-social business, and perhaps point to the places at the intersection.

The OYW initiative has gone into the market under the banner of social business but i fear this label muddies the water.

While these initiatives can be described as pro-social, they are not social business by its understood definition.

Pro-social business activities, ie sustainable business practices that benefit other people or society as a whole as well as delivering profit for the business and providing meaning at work are to be applauded and are absolutely necessary.

In effect ideas of this nature are another example of a back to the future effect, and testament to the blip nature of industrial age. The key component being 'meaning'.

If OYW is looking for a manifesto it could look to Schumacher's 'Buddhist Economics' from 1973 which is still the blueprint of pro-social purpose-driven business.

'To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve‐racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul‐destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.
Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure'

Social business
Social/Open business is a notion that has been around for some time and is still perhaps looking for the definitive description however the forthcoming book by David Cushman and Jamie Burke - 'The 10 Principles of Open Business' - may be bringing that day closer.

They describe an Open business as “… one which uses its available resources to discover people who care about the same Purpose it does, brings those people together and joins with them to achieve that Purpose.”

The ten principles are self explanatory
The ‘Why’ of the organisation.

Open Capital
The degree to which the business is crowd-funded vs 'big capital' funded.

Networked Organisation
The degree to which the company ecosystem is employees and also outside partners.

The degree to which IP/knowledge and thought leadership is openly shared

The degree to which employess/partners are using social media technologies to create opportunities etc.

Open Innovation
Developing product and service innovations in public

Open Data
Data generated the organisation is made publicly available where there is a possibility that this data can create additional public good

Decision making is done openly, the organisation can be held to account.

Key decisions are made by and with those charged with implementing them.

Walking the talk, skin in the game.

David and Jamie argue that for a business to be inherently Open/Social it must address all ten principles to at least some degree. For a summary of the ten points I'll refer you to David's blog where he is serialising a preview.

How many of those principle are being adopted by the OYW program is not clear. There appears to be an emphasis on purpose and transparency, which is a fair start.

We should also be mindful that neither of these concepts are anything to do with CSR.

And particularly mindful in the case of evaluating 'pro-social' initiatives.

CSR in many organisations is viewed as a 'cost' to placate 'tree-huggers' or suchlike.

Pro-social is driven by the organisational purpose. The 'Why' of the business. see 'never trust an organisation that puts customers first'.

So my point is; pro-social business is not social business.
They are different concepts which have certain intersection points.
If it seems nit-picky it's because it is.

Plus it was an opportunity to mention David and Jamies's book, which I should have done before this point.

And also the chance to remember Bob Geldof's finest moment, as the assembled Rats tear up pictures of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on Top Of The Pops on the week they displaced the hideous duo's insipid 'Grease' offering at number one in the UK charts with 'Rat Trap'.

Monday, March 25, 2013

you don't know how to assess your competition because you haven't competed

In the movie Limitless, a struggling writer Eddie Morra is introduced to NZT, a cognitive overdrive pill that gives him super powered system two control and ability to turbo charge his memory and other mental processes in a manner akin to a superhuman AI.

After turning round his novel in a matter of days, Eddie's attentions shift to matters of global finance and, such is his meteoric success in that field, he quickly draws attention from business mogul Carl Van Loon (played by Robert DeNiro), who ropes him in as a key advisor etc.

Very soon Morra starts to believe his own hype, au naturellement, but the hard-nosed Van Loon cuts him down.

'Your deductive powers are a gift from God or chance or a straight shot of sperm or whatever or whoever wrote your life-script.

A gift, not earned.

You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers.

You're careless with those powers, you flaunt them and you throw them around like a brat with his trust-fund.

You haven't had to climb up all the greasy little rungs. You haven't been bored blind at the fundraisers.

You haven't done the time and that first marriage to the girl with the right father.

You think you can leap over all in a single bound.

You haven't had to bribe or charm or threat your way to a seat at that table.

You don't know how to assess your competition because you haven't competed.'

Talent, experience and paying your dues? What a concept.

It's a cop out for the Gen Y audience. Morra outsmarts Van Loon at the end and ultimately runs for President.

There you go kids, it's true. You DON'T have to pay your dues.

There's always a shortcut.

Except when there's not.

You don't know how to assess your competition if you haven't competed.

At least in part, the Zuckerberg's of this world have risen to the top without having to compete.
But paying your dues from the top is a better vantage point.

One day, when the shit hits the fan and they come out the other side, Zuck et al will have learned about competing - just like Van Hoon - then they will have earned their powers. Then the real game starts.

Friday, March 22, 2013

i love the internet

It's always interesting what you find when you have a good rummage around the internet.

I came across this in an unrelated YouTube search.

The above is a tune I recorded with Barry Simpson which we released back in the early 90's as the Turnbull AC's.

The Turnbulls were the skinhead gang in the movie 'The Warriors', fact fans.

We nicked the name over ten years before the American grunge band of the same moniker.

It was the fourth release on our fledgeling Hook imprint.

Only about 500 copies were pressed. Even less sold.

The first 50 were the pre-release white label, the uploader of this to YouTube is one of the lucky owners.

I can tell it's original because it's my own handwriting on the label.

The deep bass was Barry's and the horn stabs that pepper throughout were sampled off a George Clinton thing.

File under post-balearic ambient disco.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

man bites dog

I've never been comfortable with any brief that includes any notion of 'we need to educate c*nsumers about [product x] so they learn about the benefits as part of an [x] lifestyle' kinda thing.

The idea that anyone is sitting around waiting to be educated by any brand is borderline delusional.

If we want education we can go back to college, read a book, go to a conference or watch a documentary.

We almost certainly don't go to a supermarket.

Often the most effective brand communications are about confirmation not information.

Psychologists talk about the principle of commitment and consistency.

By requesting an initial commitment that confirms an existing worldview people are often more willing to agree to subsequent requests that appear consistent with their original commitment.

'Are you one of those people who want's to live a healthier lifestyle but life seems to get in the way?'

For further confirmation consider this, from Lord Vetinari - the benevolent dictator of the Terry Pratchett novels.

'Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things… well, new things aren’t what they expect.
They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that.
In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds… Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.'

Monday, March 18, 2013

bark at the moon

The other day someone mentioned to me 'have you seen the Old Spice Wolf thing?'

I hadn't so I went out and found it.

'Sometimes you gotta eat people. America - that’s how business works.’


I recall walking out of Euston Square tube station (I think it was there) sometime in the late 90's and seeing the huge French Connection billboard.

It seemed like the biggest billboard in London, plain black with two words on it.

fcuk advertising.

That poignant message seemed to somehow be a final statement on big advertising of that nature.

In 1998 or whatever, the internet was fast taking over and it really felt like the last days of the old advertising paradigm.

At the time that self-aware French Connection campaign felt almost like a last hurrah. And it was a pretty good last hurrah.

(That legacy is somewhat lessened by the fact that it's a last, tired hurrah that's still running today... ho hum.)

But somehow this Old Spice Wolf campaign has a similar end-of-times feeling.

Perhaps it's the last final triumphant hurrah of this period of multi-channel/transmedia, social media-fuelled advertising.

The old adage goes that a candle burns most brightly just before its flame goes out.

Social commentary, arch irony and a general ridicule for the industry of which this is a part means it's hard to visualise where we go from here, such is the completeness and scale of this work.

Of course - as with the final word on anything - it's never the final word.

Doom mongering aside - and lest we forget - in a world where we have a plethora of tools, channels and networks that help us avoid advertising and marketing, where we can easily filter out the noise that's trying to interrupt us from what we are doing and move our attention to something else; those very same tools and processes make it super easy for us to find advertising and marketing that we'd like to watch or get involved with.

If it looks interesting enough.

Grand Prix.

Friday, March 15, 2013

antifragility is a new york state of mind

'Guy's got chops' says Billy Joel at the end of this clip that's been doing the rounds this week.

Billy Joel accepts the request of a young student Michael Pollack to jump on stage and accompany Bill on the piano during his college Q&A tour in Nashville.

Micheal proceeds to give a deft turn of hand to 'New York State Of Mind' while Billy dons the shades and is enjoying it so much even does a little Sinatra improv.

The key moment in the clip though is not the performance itself - though it's a belter.

It's the moment that Michael pitches Billy.

There's just a pause of a few seconds while Billy takes in what's happening.

Then he responds. 'Ok'.

In AntiFragile Taleb describes '..anything that has more upside than downside from random events is antifragile'.

In that pause something of this nature ran through Billy's mind.

For the kid to have the balls to raise his hand this random event could only result in upside.

'When you are fragile, you depend on things following the exact planned course, with as little deviation as possible—for deviations are more harmful than helpful. This is why the fragile needs to be very predictive in its approach, and, conversely, predictive systems cause fragility'.

'When you want deviations, and you don’t care about the possible dispersion of outcomes that the future can bring, since most will be helpful, you are antifragile...If every trial provides you with information about what does not work, you start zooming in on a solution—so every attempt becomes more valuable, more like an expense than an error. And of course you make discoveries along the way.'

This is what artists do. Spot the moments when random events have more upside than down and go with it.

Michaels got chops so even Billy had to up his game.

Once the shades go on this is stadium territory not just a college lecture hall.

And with close to a million views at the time of writing, it's all upside for Bill.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

more texas sharpshooter fallacy

A report from Ebay this week appears to confirm what we have suspected for some time.

That for well-known brands most of the buying up of search terms is largely a waste of time and money and has little effect on sales because the clickers would have found the brand anyway and purchased anyway.

The report, a hefty 25 pager (pdf available here) summises that "Advertising may appear like it is successfully attracting these consumers, when in reality they would have found other channels to the firm's website,".

In several experiments eBay tested removing paid-search keywords using its brand name from Yahoo and Microsoft search engines while maintaining them on Google.

[NB: There is, of course, the possibility that Ebay may take some arch enjoyment from having a pop at Google]

The authors of the report; Thomas Blake, Chris Nosko and Steven Tadelis offer three key take-outs.

'First, “brand” keyword advertising (where firms purchase advertisements on searches for their own brand name), a practice used by many companies, is ineffective because, absent paid search links,consumers simply substitute to (unpaid) organic search links. This implies that brand keyword advertising expenses have neither persuasive nor informative value to well known corporations, and arguably, for other companies as well.

Second, the effectiveness of SEM for non-branded keywords is small for a large and well-known brand like eBay and the channel has been ineffective on average.

Finally, we show that there is a small yet detectable positive impact of SEM on new user acquisition and on informing infrequent users about the value of using eBay.

This last finding supports the informative view of advertising and implies that targeting uninformed users is a critical factor for successful advertising.'

Upon understanding this last point then the shlock-headline baiting of articles such as this one from Business Insider from late last year (yet somehow on a second lease of life) is further testament to the grip that the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy has on marketers and the ROI question.

ComScore 'research' apparently determined that fans of Target on Facebook were 97 percent more likely to spend at Target, and friends of fans were 51 percent more likely than the average population to spend at the retailer (the brand has over 18 million “likes”).

Thus 'proving' 'A Perfect Example Of Why Retailers Should Be Investing In Social Media.'

Whom the 'average population' that are not on Facebook is unclear. As is how on earth those numbers can be quantified.

In short, they would have bought there anyway.

Similarly this week in AdNews comes the revelation from 'Facebook-centric' [natch] marketer Mike Watkins of Mudo Media who calims that every dollar spent on Facebook marketing by his client - teen fashion brand Supre - had delivered $192 in return, again 'proving' that 'Facebook will outperform TV advertising campaigns every time'.

Tellingly Watkins reveals that he is 'sick of Facebook being a marketing bolt-on and wants to be first to the table when it comes to budgets and campaigns.'

Of course he is ;)

There is no doubt that, correctly applied, paid search and Facebook will contribute to the overall effect.

But again the social media experts and prone to inferring the general from the particular and blind to the fact that marketing to existing customers and ergo measuring sales from who would have bought in any case doth not make any case for the replacemenet of this-with-that.

ROI is indirect and fuzzy. In all likelyhood we're no closer to figuring out which 50% of advertising is wasted than we've ever been, and the chances of ever fully figuring it out won't happen any time soon.

And I'm cool with that.

HT Sam

*UPDATE Friday March 15.

From the Wordstream blog, an alternative view.

Dear eBay, Your Ads Don't Work Because They Suck

Thursday, March 07, 2013

take that

This Dilbert came from a post in the Growth Hacking Linked-in group.

It could just as easy be about the agency pitch process (aka the free IP giveaway)


inferring the general from the particular

This Amanda Palmer TED talk has been going gangbusters on t'internet.

Obviously, Palmer is a 'performer' and making use those chops in her talk has been a factor in its spread.

If you can't bear to watch; the gist is Palmer arguing that the best way to get people pay for music is to give it to them first then ask them to pay (in cash or in kind) later.

No big revelation here, it's standard 'reciprocation' from the psychology of persuasion.

Just like when you buy someone a coffee there's an unspoken obligation for the recipient to return the favour at some point in the future.

The other key points are about the nature of trust (between artist and fan) and skin in the game - the former flowing directly from the latter.

Palmer's band often couch-surfed on tours etc and used the vulnerability as an up-close tactic with fans.

Then crowd-funded their latest album using Kickstarter.

It's a good talk, as they go.

But I get a shudder at the prospect of this being wheeled out as some sort of kickstarter/social media case study.

Which is a already happening.

Because it's still not about the tools or platforms.

Social media experts love to infer the general from the particular.

This story is just about as particular and un-general as they get.

And what happened for AP is extremely unlikely to happen for your brand/not-for-profit or whatever.

Can you be inspired by Palmers story? Yes.

Because this is a case study in finding a unique voice, connecting with the few who give a shit and perseverance.

Qualities available to all.

Through that lens it's more useful - inferring particular from the general.

Apart from that it doesn't help you much.

And kids, if you are going to be inspired please can you come up with something better than 3rd rate Hazel O'Connor-lite angsty goth dreck.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

how do you change people's behaviours?

I'm compelled to share this article from the Sustainable Business section in the Guardian yesterday by behaviour change chap Les Robinson.

Les is talking around the topic of sustainability initiatives but the take-aways for any form of communication are clear.

Behaviour change, of course, is one of those terms that currently suffers from being bandied about by every Tom, Dick and douche-bag (in the same manner as the skunk-ification of innovation, big data, and social et al) however these are kind of succinct and simple pieces that will hopefully keep us on the right side of what matters vs the waffle.

Below is a nugget-isation of the key points, paraphrased for an advertising context.

I'd urge a thorough examination of the full article.

And also a note for Sydney and Melbourne based readers - Les is conduction a couple of 2 day workshops in both cities during April.

I shall be doing my best to attend the Melb one.

How do you change people's behaviours?
WHAM! 'It's a delusion we can change peoples' behaviours. Instead, people change their own behaviours. Our role is to create an enabling environment and provide opportunities for people to become inspired by what their peers have achieved'

How to you move beyond "the converted"?
'..instead of asking "How can I make the public share my [brand message/app/content]' we need to ask "how can I be of service to [what matters to them]"

Which behaviour change theory is best?
'The best theory is the one you make yourself by intimately knowing your audience and understanding their needs.'

What if people just aren't interested?
'Don't blame them...immerse yourself in their lives until you figure out how to create solutions that answer their real needs. Good behavioural products sell themselves, but no amount of persuasion or wiz-bang marketing can sell a behaviour that provides no advantages for the adopter.'

(an inconvenient truth)
'The failure of [most advertising] results in a common marketing syndrome, the Just Shout Louder Effect. If people aren't responding to the threat, then Just Shout Louder!'

Do incentives work?
"...incentives tell receivers a story about themselves. Sometimes it's a story that dignifies the receiver, sometimes it humiliates them. So, the question we could ask is: what story does our particular incentive tell the receiver? Does it say, "We recognize your extraordinary motivation." Or, does it say, "We doubt you really care, that's why we're paying you."

How do you create great messages?
"Marketers typically overestimate the power of messages, a syndrome that could be called "message fetish." People are rarely convinced by messages. Usually they are convinced by the inspiring real life examples of their peers".

Can marketers persuade people to do absolutely anything?
We humans resent unwanted advice, especially when it threatens our comfort zones. Denial and resistance are driven by fear and the worst fears are social fears. What will our friends and family think? What if we fail? How will we look to others? It may seem silly but one of the big barriers to women cycling to work is their fear about how their hair will look. We trivialise these fears to our peril. Behaviour change is therefore rarely achieved by persuasion or marketing [alone] but almost always requires modelling how to carry out unfamiliar behaviours with ease, aplomb and dignity."

In conclusion
"We are learning that the business of change requires us to work with humans in their social context, respond to their hopes and fears, recognise the role of power, and understand that behaviour sits in a matrix of technologies, infrastructures, institutions, norms and social structures, all of which need to be the open to strategising and potential modification".

Friday, March 01, 2013

the peak-end rule

This segment from Rocky Balboa is often used as an example for coaching 'motivational' speaking but is also is a great demonstration of the peak–end rule.

With this in your toolbox becomes a lot easier to predict likely responses your advertising ideas, and many creative directors instinctively understand this while perhaps not knowing the actual science around it.

If you wan't to skip ahead, the main piece kicks in at about 1:20

The rule describes how we (the punters) judge experiences (eg advertising) almost entirely on just two factors.

How we feel at the most intense point and then how the experience ends.

Surprisingly, duration is not significantly important, so if it's just 15 seconds or even 2mins the key thing is make sure the ad has an high emotional peak and some sort of a resolution - it can be a cliff-hanger, a call to action but it needs to end properly.

The psychology says that using this rule means we are addressing what Daniel Kahneman calls the two 'selves'.

The 'experiencing self' - this is the part of us that feels things in real-time as it's happening.

And the 'remembering self' - this is the part of us that stores the 'peak' and the 'end' in memory.
The bigger the peak and the better the end then the easier it is for us to recall how we felt.

So in the clip Rocky starts to tell a story, he starts to describe the good times with Rocky Junior, firstly as a baby and then growing up.

Then one day something happened...

'Let me tell you something you already know' - (at this point Rocky jolts us with a bit of an insight)

Blam!, here it comes.

Wait for it....

'It isn’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? That’s how winning is done.'

Here's where it really happens - because you feel like it's peaked, you've had a tingle but we're not there yet...

'Now if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what your worth, But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody.


That's the peak, then it ends with something to DO.

'Until you start believing in yourself you ain't gonna have a life...Don't forget to visit your mother'

There you go. The peak-end rule.

Because if people don't FEEL anything they don't DO anything.