Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Protest 2.0

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) staged an anti-fur protest on clothing brand DKNY’s Facebook Page Monday morning.

Thirteen different users changed their Facebook profiles photos to block letters and posted in quick succession on the DKNY’s Page to spell out the words “DK Bunny Butcher” in protest of the brand’s use of rabbit fur (screenshot below). Dozens of supporters have since taken to the Page to voice their disdain for the LVMH-owned company’s practices, reaching many of the Page’s 200,000+ fans in the process.

In addition to the Facebook protest, PETA has also held demonstrations outside of Donna Karan’s New York offices and events she has hosted, as well as retail outlets carrying her design, Senior Campaigner Ashley Byrne told us. When asked why PETA turned to Facebook specifically, she said the organization “hope[d] to reach new audiences who may not yet know about the cruelty that goes into every piece of fur used in her line.”

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Why Oreo biscuits are almost as popular as Lady GaGa

AdAge produced a fascinating write-up of how Oreo and Blackberry are doing on Facebook and Twitter – with empirical evidence to suggest that people are much more interested in conversational updates, than out and out marketing. They produced the example of Blackberry’s Twitter, which on May 4th (National Star Wars day in America) tweeted ‘May the 4th be with you’. Brian Wallace from Blackberry was asked to justify why he was tweeting such a thing, but he pointed out that “the post reached over 150,000 people, 98% of the posts were positive, most tweets made a positive association with our brand, and it drove a 15% increase in our followers”.

Similarly, Oreo is now in the top 25 most-liked pages on Facebook, having added over 3 million fans in the last month. Typical posts get over 12,500 comments – rivaling Lady Gaga in engagement. As the previous story shows, brands mainly aim to use social media for engagement; so writing updates which create conversation and a buzz, is clearly the way to go.

Or as Brian Wallace put it: “A Facebook fan has no value. Getting a Facebook fan to do something does.”

Content should lean toward conversational

Mr. Lazerow, whose company makes tools that help brands manage their Facebook presences, estimates that roughly two-thirds of a company's Facebook content should be conversational in nature. The exact ratio, however, depends on what it's trying to achieve. While there's no across-the-board data on how conversational posts compare to promotional ones, he said the evidence is clear. He pointed me to a few different examples on Facebook where those conversational posts produce eight to 12 times the response of more brand-oriented ones. "It's not always about your brand," he said. "It's about why people are there to connect with other people, [gettng them] to connect with you because they like you. The numbers speak for themselves."

Oreo is masterful in handling that balance between promotion and conversation. Consider the responses from several recent questions:

"Ever try dunking an Oreo cookie with a fork or anything else?" 8,200 likes and 2,300 comments
"Pick a flavor, any flavor! If you could create a new Oreo cream flavor, what would it be?" 7,100 likes, 12,500 comments
"Pop quiz: Twist, lick, then..." 6,500 likes, 6,200 comments

In case you're wondering, these numbers aren't far off what posts on Lady Gaga's page might do. Not bad for a 98-year-old cookie brand. Oreo's Facebook fan base has grown by 3 million since late October, giving it over 15 million fans. It's one of three brands, along with Coke and Starbucks, to penetrate a top 25 dominated by celebrities, entertainment properties and Texas Hold Em Poker.

HT to We are social

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ruthless Internet Blocker

Programs and browser extensions that can be used to block access to the pipe for a set amount of time all ready exist – but what makes SelfControl different is that it is completely unforgiving. Once you’ve set that innocent little timer – you’re screwed. Quitting the application, restarting your computer or even totally deleting the app will not enable you access to the internet. You have to wait for the time to expire before you can get back on.

A cruel mistress.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Welcome to Commodity Hell: The Perils of the Copycat Economy

I'm currently working on a project for Nokia looking at approaches to identify and communicate services.

It's a complicated topic — within Nokia as we have three separate operating systems and nine layers of management between me and the CEO! — and I believe must be treated as a brand architecture challenge not a services and user interface issue which is where ownership currently resides. Why? In my personal opinion the service space is fast becoming commodity hell, the need for a common and identifiable architecture to brand services has become mission critical.

The effects of imitation and commoditization are happening so quickly that we have started taking them for granted. To demonstrate this the issues I'm currently developing a series of short case studies, one of which compares the commoditized wine industry to mobile services and it's making fascinating work.

From a consumer perspective, consumers now feel the same sense of bewilderment felt amongst rows of comparable wine when visiting app stores with hundreds of thousands of apps with incremental differences. Observing brands visual identity design strategies within this space has been really insightful.

Apple iTunes is the service equivalent of 'two buck chuck'

From an innovation perspective commoditised markets have a history of being disrupted by radical new offerings. Oren Harari from FT Press observed that the fastest-growing wine in the history of America's wine industry is Bronco Wine Company's Charles Shaw wine. It is sold at the upscale Trader Joe's grocery chain, its customers are affluent and trendy, and its price is $1.99—hence its affectionate nickname "Two Buck Chuck."
While Charles Shaw might not ever be confused with a vintage collector's wine, it's good enough for the discerning Trader Joe's customer seeking a casual drink. It's certainly good enough to have thoroughly cannibalized the sales of high-priced wines and skewed the industry's entire price structure. Small wonder that a Wine Observer article noted that the "terror of commoditization…is sweeping California's wine producers."

The bottom line? Imitation and commoditization are one of the most pressing strategic challenges that businesses will face for the duration of this decade. What's been useful to me is the rich learning possible by observing how other sectors have risen to meet this challenge.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Google Net Neutrality Infographics

After posting recently about the Brian Solis' Conversation Prism I had a look into the agency behind this work called JESS3. Working hand-in-hand with Google’s legal team, JESS3 helped developed this excellent series of infographics to help demonstrate the complex and hotly contested issue of net neutrality.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I 'like' Dunkin' Donuts

In Facebook, Tabs unlock Facebook’s customization features. Whereas storefronts can take residence as a designated destination within the Facebook brand page, additional tabs can offer discrete engagement opportunities to appeal to the diverse roles of social consumers.  Like traditional web sites, tabs are the social web pages for dedicated experiences. And, not everything has to be related to marketing or promotions.

While we see many companies using tabs to increase Likes through contests and promotions, the effect of tabs are limited only by vision, creativity, and execution. Most notably, each tab can assume the position of a landing page which is intended to visualize the most current initiatives for each brand whether it’s aimed at existing or new “likes” or both. Meaning, tabs are assignable as landing pages, rather than sending people directly to The Wall, where specific content, stories, or programs are presented upon visiting the brand page.

The Facebook presence architected by Dunkin’ Donuts is designed to serve a variety of business objectives. The current landing page is promoting the “Ultimate DD Coffee Fan Contest.”

Just to the right of the this tab, DD presents Marice, a creative application that brings an espresso bean to life and encourages you to customize messages to send to friends.

To encourage customer advocacy and loyalty, DD includes a landing page for its DDPerks program. Again, the experience is maintained within Facebook. This program can scale should DD desire, to include an all-inclusive database that allows customers to access their DD account in Facebook.

I should also note, that DD also uses the left side of the page to recognize its fan of the week. Spotlighting customers is among the most appreciated and effective social sparks that ignite beneficial sharing and conversations.

This is merely a small taste of what’s possible with the structured customization Facebook supports. Perhaps one of the most understated aspects of tabs is that FBML supports website analytics code from major publishers. In my work, we often use Google Analytics to measure the activity of each page and how visitors interact and travel to and from the Brand Page.

Read more insights from Brian Solis

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Outside innovation: The P&G Partnership Hunt

Creative ideas drive growth, and Procter & Gamble is exploiting that fact by developing new products through partnerships with inventors, small businesses and even competitors.

As brilliant ideas go, the Oral B Pulsonic toothbrush may not quite be up there with the wheel. But the electrically powered product – which employs patented “sonic technology” to scour stains from teeth and sells itself with the boast that it is “So slim it makes your bathroom seem bigger” – has made plenty of profit even so.

In fact, it’s been so successful that Procter & Gamble, the company that makes it, has set out to find more good ideas just like it. A whole lot more ideas. With revenues now close to $80 billion, Procter & Gamble has come a long way since William Procter and James Gamble set up their first factory in Cincinnati in 1837 with the simple aim of selling candles to American housewives.

Today, P&G is one of the world’s biggest corporations, and over the past decade a large part of its success has stemmed from a strategic decision in 2000 to turn away from developing only its own product ideas and towards creating partnerships with inventors, smaller companies and even competitors who have come up with winning concepts.

The Pulsonic toothbrush, to take just one example, is an idea that P&G freely concedes could have taken five years to bring to market had it elected to go it alone. Partnering with a large Japanese consumer electronics group cut out numerous processes and got the toothbrush on to shelves less than a year after the project was green-lighted.

You might think that a company the size of Procter & Gamble could come up with its own ideas, but the partnership model works. Among the products now issuing from P&G are Swiffer dusters, Tide Total Care, Clairol Perfect 10 and Olay Regenerist – all of them joint ventures of one sort or another.
And that’s not counting broader strategic partnerships that the company is forging with the likes of Alibaba, the Chinese web services giant, General Mills and even the US Government’s Los Alamos defence research laboratory – where they made the first atomic bomb.

In building partnerships of this sort, little is left to chance. A formal innovation programme known as Connect + Develop, set up in 2001 to develop new businesses, follows precise guidelines to ensure that the sort of disruptions common when businesses join forces are kept to a minimum.
Thus far, C + D has shepherded well over 100 new products into stores, and with sales of these products now hitting $1bn a year, Procter and Gamble has set itself the ambitious target of tripling revenues from such partnerships by 2015.

Connect + Develop’s chief problem seems to be deterring the hordes of impractical and optimistic would-be inventors beating a path to its door. The prospect of selling an idea to Procter & Gamble inspired 3,950 companies and individuals to make formal pitches to C + D in 2009 alone. Most were knocked back at the first hurdle as Connect + Develop turned itself into a sort of multinational Dragons’ Den.

That’s not to say there is no potential for disagreement once a new idea is accepted. Quite what sort of deal P&G strikes with its junior partners remains a matter of speculation, and it would be stretching credulity to suggest that they go 50:50. So far, no one is complaining and the balance in the new partnerships looks right.

Small companies such as Sederma – the boutique French skincare technology company behind the peptides used in Olay Regenerist – bring ideas and specialist know-how to the table. P&G chips in with investment, advertising, and, not incidentally, the backing of what may well rank as the world’s most powerful sales force.

According to P&G’s chief technology officer, Bruce Brown, the policy is one of “value creation, against just measuring the number of connections”. What his company plans to do now, he says, is to ask: “What are the biggest opportunities we want to address, and are we looking outside to make the right connections?”

And the signs are that Procter & Gamble is in this for the long haul. According to Bob MacDonald, its CEO, the corporation’s net will be cast as wide as possible. “We are interested in all types of high-quality, on-strategy business partners,” MacDonald told a dinner held in honour of the group’s top innovation partners this month, “from individual inventors or entrepreneurs to smaller companies and those listed in the Fortune 500 — even competitors.”

And with products such as Glad’s “ForceFlex” rubbish bags now appearing in shops, MacDonald is practising what he preaches: ForceFlex has been developed in partnership with Clorex, long one of P&G’s bitterest competitors.

There’s little doubt that – even looked at with a sceptical eye – P&G’s strategy makes all sorts of sense. The corporation operates in low-margin sectors where – as strategic planning maven Inder Sidhu points out – it runs “very competitive, entrenched position-kind of businesses, so even small, incremental changes can mean a lot”. Adds Sidhu: “There has to be that focus on sustaining innovation, but then they also tried every once in a while to come up with disruptive innovation, the Swiffer or those kinds of products.”

As proof that C + D is working, look no further than one of the latest products from the labs. Procter & Gamble turned its back on candle making in1920 but several years ago, alerted to the growing popularity of scented candles for air freshening, it married its Febreze fabric-scenting technology to the know-how of a traditional candle-maker to re-enter the candle market. Now Febreze Candles can be found in the same sorts of mom-and-pop stores that P&G used to supply nearly two centuries ago.

William Procter and James Gamble, it seems safe to say, would certainly approve.

From Stylus

Case study: Social Media Listening Strategy for Orange – identifying insights, super contributors, and sentiment

Orange is a leading telecommunications company in Europe that has partnered with Synthesio, an international web monitoring and research company, to actively listen to and engage consumers online.

The problem

Orange telecommunications initially started out on the web by implementing a FAQ on their site, allowing customers to find answers to any number of problems or questions they might have had. Online for a dozen years or so, the objective was to respond to the larger number of questions posed by their clients. All in all, the FAQ was a rich resource for Internet users when it was first put into place. It had about 2,000 different cases and several topics like cell phones, Internet, TV, VoIP, etc.

The FAQ was a traditional web service that seemed to work well. Divided into several sections, it sent site visitors to the right answers via a questionnaire – and averaged 6 million visits per month !

However, the problems faced by Orange were multiple, according to Thomas Le Gac, Project Manager 2.0 for Orange :

a FAQ doesn’t allow visitors to ask their own questions there were “so many different client requests” that it was impossible to answer every question clients and corporations don’t use the same language – so customers spent time searching for their answer or left unsatisfied you had to actually go to the official Orange site to use the FAQ ! Not very user-friendly for customers searching for a response – any response – where they could find it

Solution #1 :  the Orange forum

Orange decided to put into place a much more interactive system that would allow visitors to pose their own questions and find the responses they were looking for much more easily.

They started working with Synthesio one year ago, at the same time when they put into place their own official Orange forum. The official forum allowed visitors to ask questions in their own phraseology and get answers from others just like them. Instead of being sent to the “right” answers, visitors to the Orange FAQ were sent to the forum thread that corresponded to their question.

The forum was self-regulated, meaning that only non-corporate web users were allowed to leave questions and answers. Orange, however, took it upon themselves to “certify” certain answers by placing a Stamp of Certification on those they felt were the best answers to user questions.

The results

The forum receives about 15,000 visits per day – meaning about 15,000 service calls per day that Orange doesn’t have to answer themselves. They started to save money in their Hotline department almost immediately. As opposed to having only 2,000 answers available via their FAQ, they had now Certified over 1,000 forum responses and estimate that over 100,000 people have viewed them.

That’s 100,000 fewer Hotline calls.

What’s more, the Stamp of Certification recognized certain forum members as experts and leaders in that community, energizing them to contribute more and more often.

Solution #2 :  a team of Web Consultants

However, Orange realized that they could – and should – go a step further. Instead of making clients come to them, Orange decided to go “fishing where the fish are” according to Thomas Le Gac. Also one year ago, Orange began listening to forums online with Synthesio, watching and learning how people interacted on forums and what they were talking about.

“One of our main challenges was to collect millions of opinions on a brand that has the same name as a fruit,” says Synthesio CEO & Co-Founder Loic Moisand. Le Gac and his team worked with Synthesio to identify the 5 top forums for Orange discussions. ”They were able to listen to forum conversations for a year before joining in on the conversations,” says Moisand.

Orange and Synthesio worked to analyze and engage in conversations with customers in real or near-real time. Synthesio’s analysts filtered through comments to identify them for positive or negative sentiment and assign them to pre-chosen categories, while Le Gac put into place a team of “web consultants” to respond to comments. After listening to conversations on the web, they were able to develop a chart of guidelines for intervening (or not) in forum discussions.

For example even before intervening, the Orange team asks permission from forum administrators so as not to intrude. They also identified certain moderator-like particiapnts that Le Gac refers to as “super contributors.” They are community participants that regularly post good answers to visitors’ questions. ”There are certain members of every forum that respond more often than others that should be identified,” says Loic Moisand.

Le Gac adds that “the rule of thumb is to let the ’super contributors’ answer questions first. We don’t want to seem like competition to them, so our web consultants only answer when these ’super contributors’ don’t have an answer.”

The response :

Since the implementation of Synthesio’s monitoring, Orange has been able to identify and solve  numerous “collective problems”. Recently, for example, 40,000 clients signed up for a specific package complained of not receiving the amount of memory they had signed up for.

The customer service hotline answered questions from clients that called in, but the web team was able to detect the problem as a “collective problem” as the number of thread posts grew quickly. “Identifying weak signals is key to avoiding a major communications crisis,” says Loic Moisand. Orange rapidly corrected the problem and alerted clients to the correction. This information allowed them to realize an immediate savings on clients that did not call the support center and possible PR expenses.

Orange has estimated “a few million euros” in savings just through this installation of listening, and are expecting several more millions in ROI. According to Le Gac, the ROI they have seen has been “extremely quick”.

Added benefits – - monitoring competitors’ conversations :

In addition to the ROI realized by listening to third-party forums and positive image constructed through the encouragement of influential forum members, Orange has also been able to work with Synthesio to listen to conversations about competitors.

In one case, they were able to spot a problem in a direct competitor’s offer that was complained about by a number of forum visitors, and avoided making the same mistake, themselves.

They have also been able to spot offers from their competitors that their customers wanted in their own plans. Family calling, for example, is now part of the Orange Open calling plan. It gives customers unlimited calling capability for a certain number of their contacts.

Next Steps :

Orange is always seeking to go further in their response to customer needs and is planning on growing their team of web consultants, says Thomas Le Gac. He aims to turn the team of 7 web consultants into a powerhouse of 30 by the end of the year.

Orange is also planning on expanding their web listening and interaction via their involvement in more social networks and more countries. While a seemingly “must” for northern American companies, Twitter has been slowly growing their presence in France in terms of the number of users. Orange therefore plans to take advantage of this tool by opening their own B2C account, as well as using Facebook forums.

They realize the potential of these spaces to attract younger customers and to find them where they are.

There is also a number of international branches that are interested in Orange’s innovative steps in France, and they are currently working to use Synthesio’s monitoring services to expand their social media efforts to Switzerland, Spain, Romania, Poland, and the UK, to name a few.

Finally, Synthesio’s analysts identify sentiment surrounding the Orange brand and various offerings. Each comment in a thread is flagged as positive, negative, or neutral, and assigned to one of the topics Orange is monitoring in online forums.

“There are certain characteristics that we would like to see around our brand,” says Thomas Le Gac. “Transparency and honesty aren’t easy to measure, but they are clearly an objective for us. We are comparing Synthesio’s sentiment analysis from month to month to see where there are changes and why. This is a question we are going to keep looking at.”

This case study is a submission for the 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards.

10 facts that make you think twice about online gaming

Thanks to All Facebook

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Social shopping comes to Levi's

Levi’s introduced a “Friends Store” on its website which showcases the jeans that your friends have liked and also allows you to share the jeans you “like.” This introduces a peer-to-peer influence model where we influence and are influenced by those we trust. Levi’s is betting the denim that the more we interact within its Friends Store, the more people we will be introduced to it simply through our interaction. Doing so creates a bridge between the web and social web, content and relationships, thus socializing the objects that move us.

The natural step for Levi’s is to also recreate that experience within Facebook. With Facebook Tabs, the opportunity to create a Friends Store within Facebook exists now as does the means to introduce a sophisticated, engaging, and fully-functional storefront. There is debate as to why brands would willfully sacrifice traffic to its dotcom. In my experience, this comes down to the unique touchpoints that connect brands to traditional consumers and social consumers respectively. With the social consumer, attention comes at a premium and there are great advantages in capturing attention where and when it’s focused.

HT to Brian Solis

Inside word from Laurence Ellis about the Topman Denim Fashion Videos

Creatively Topman were very open to what we wanted to do. They had a core brief, to show some jeans and appeal to a very savvy and media saturated consumer but how this was interpreted was left down to us. One of great realisations from the Topman side is hits don’t necessarily equal the success of a campaign. They could have orchestrated a silly viral campaign achieving millions of hits but in a way it seems obvious and insecure, and often doesn’t leave you with a great impression of who that brand are – apart from the fact that they’ve hired a clever ad agency. We understood that these films were slightly different from what had been done before. They have integrity and a subtle beauty to them. With such a huge brand behind them there is something quite beautiful about this combination. They are not at all what you would expect from Topman –  the unexpected is always much more interesting.

From It's nice that

How luxury brands can tap the blogosphere’s growing influence

Luxury brands need to be more proactive in cultivating a presence in blogs that have assumed a more central role in the cultural discourse, according to several media experts. Consumers trust blogs more compared to traditional media than they did five years ago. Brands should actively look for ways to generate positive press by developing relationships with prominent industry bloggers.

“My specific advice would be to identify bloggers and content creators who are genuinely passionate about what your brand is trying to do,” said Imran Amed, founder and editor of The Business of Fashion, London. “Build real relationships with them, so they can offer something unique to their readership.

“It gets people excited and engaged from social media,” he said. “There are a lot of creative things people can do.”

Mr. Amed spoke at L2 Think Tank’s Innovation 2010 Forum along with Lauren Sherman, editor of Fashionista, New York; and Christine Barberich, editorial director of Refinery 29, New York.

Blogosphere ascendant

There is reason to believe that blogs are assuming a more central role in the social discourse, according to Technorati’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report. Here are some interesting facts:

  • Forty-six percent of consumers said they trust traditional media less than they did five years ago. Meanwhile, 34 percent said blogs are being taken more seriously and 19 percent said blogs are a better source of information than traditional media oftentimes. 
  • Thirty-nine percent of consumers said that more people will be getting their news and entertainment from blogs in the next five years than from traditional media. 
  • Just under 50 percent of consumers say they trust blogs for brand, product or service information, compared to around 60 percent of consumers trust traditional media such as newspapers, television or radio news, news Web sites and magazines. 
  • Meanwhile, 71 percent of bloggers only write about brands and products whose reputations they approve of, according to Technorati Media’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report.
  • Additionally, one in three bloggers will boycott products and 20 percent will share their reasoning with their audience, and advocate that their readers join in the boycott.
  • Ninety percent say that it is important that advertising on their site align with their values.
  • Half of professional bloggers and a quarter of hobbyists say that they have been approached by a company to write about its brand or products.
  • However, 64 percent say that they were treated less professionally by brand representatives than are traditional media sources, and just 20 percent say their interactions were positive.

Value relationships

Relationships are the currency of the blogosphere, according to Mr. Amed. As such, brands should develop a strategy for cultivating relationships with bloggers to generate brand-enhancing press.

The blogger mentioned the example of British handbag designer Bill Amberg, who contacted approached the blogger with an opportunity to design a bag suited to his lifestyle. The two spent several months developing the bag. “That’s a great example of engagement,” Mr. Amed said. “Of course, you’re only going to do that project with a few people but what a great story for me to tell our readers,” he said.

Mr. Imran said that brands interested in engaging with bloggers should set up individual meetings to throw around ideas, rather than blanket a large number of publications with generic emails. The personal relationship makes it much more likely that the writing that results will create value for the brand. The most important thing is to find blogs that feel like organic fits rather than forcing relationships that make less sense.

By the same token, brands should not treat these relationships like a commodity. Offering quid pro quo can strain relationships. “Don’t say ‘We’ll give you something if you write about us,’” said Fashionista’s Ms. Sherman. “People who are really interested – of course getting a gift is nice – but that’s the last thing I want to hear,” she said. “If you want to advertise on the site, that’s fine. “But I’m going to write about you if I think you’re an interesting company.”

Golden opportunity

Whatever the case may be, luxury brands should be more aggressive in developing a presence on the Internet in general and blogs specifically, according to another blogger.

“One of the things that’s disheartening is that there are all these amazing brands and they have these amazing legacy stories, amazing heritage and so little of that is reflected in their online environments,” said Refinery 29’s Ms. Barberich. “It’s such a critical and exciting opportunity to create an environment and all those features.

“It doesn’t have to be a volume of information, but things that reflect the value and aesthetics,” she said. “They have their core customer, but there’s an opportunity to seduce a new audience – people that want to latch on to a luxury brand that speaks to them even if they don’t have the budget now.”

From Luxury Daily

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The 1/2 life of an advertiser

Just reading a super interesting post about the new science of advertising in the 21st Century. The essence of the post is:
"The old agency model of is long past its use by date. If you think hiring the best creatives, art directors and writers is what is going to win you business in the future then you better think again. In the future advertising agencies will be more interested in employing graduates who understand game theory than color theory and the old science of advertising was based on psychology the new science of advertising will be based on mathematics."
I couldn't agree more! The rise in influence of social media has bought about the convergence of Advertising, PR, Digital and Branding into one altogether more exciting and dynamic industry.

Advertising has moved:

From push to pull is the macro-economic driver
From story telling to systems thinking as the advertisers core competence
From psychology to mathematics at the heart of the agency
From traditional paid media to social earned media
From learning the old to creating the new in universities
From designer-led to consumer led to align yourself to the needs of your audience
From marketing metrics to web analytics ushering in a new era of transparency

I just hope they're teaching this in university! In my experience the industry moves far quicker than learning institutions. If they were I wish this guy was my teacher. He gets it. My favorite quote, " … if you're not curious in a world of constant flux, you're screwed".

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Latest social stats

I saw this over on we are social. It's a sweet infographic compiled with data from Econsultancy’s recent Social Media and Online PR Report:

The rise and rise of film and fashion

According to network technology and services company Cisco, the number of people who watch web videos will surpass 1 billion by the end of 2010. By 2014, web video alone will account for 57 percent of all consumer internet traffic. With staggering statistics like these, it’s no surprise that fashion brands, both large and small, are investing in online video content.

The fashion film movement has hit the mainstream, with well-known brands like Prada and Y-3 running integrated, cross-channel campaigns around high-impact digital videos and a dedicated Digital Schedule for fashion films and catwalk streams now in place at London Fashion Week.

But there were no signs that the medium was condensing around fixed codes. Quite the opposite. What we saw was the kind of restless innovation and constant evolution that characterises the fluid nature of digital media itself, with an explosion of new films that energised, but also transcended, the seasonal presentation schedule, speaking directly to consumers across the internet as part of in-season digital campaigns.

During the Paris menswear collections, Stefano Pilati opened the Yves Saint Laurent show with “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” a 7-minute film by legendary photographer Bruce Weber, while on the first night of New York Fashion week, a mesmerising film by Nick Knight, featuring Ranya Mordanova in a fractured, postmodern ritual, beautifully complemented Korean designer Jung Kuho’s deconstructed Hexa collection. A week later in London, the British Fashion Council inaugurated a special screening zone at Somerset House for a series of film presentations by young designers like Craig Lawrence, Louise Gray and Katie Eary.

But much of the action took place outside the official fashion week schedule. We saw fashion films inhabiting online advertising units on sites like The New York Times, as well as the emergence of new editorial channels like TEST and NOWNESS, which joined SHOWstudio, Dazed Digital, brand websites, video sharing sites, and Diane Pernet’s international festival, A Shaded View on Fashion Film, as platforms for striking films by avant garde designers and established brands alike.

Last October, we brought you our first seasonal ranking of the Top 10 Fashion Films. This season, the competition was stronger than ever. So sit back, turn up the volume, and enjoy the Top 10 Fashion Films of the Season — and since most of the films are in HD, we recommend you expand the videos to fill your screens with the latest in digital fashion creativity.

Sourced from The Business of Fashion

In addition to the TBOF's Top 10 here are three recent efforts I like from Reiss, Topman and LVMH new lifestyle channel The Nowness.

Fast Fashion's winners and losers

According to a Cambridge University study people were buying a third more clothes than they were in 2002 . Brands began competing against each other for market share by introducing more lines per year at lower costs, culminating in a situation where ‘fashion houses now offer up to 18 collections a year’ and the low cost, so called ‘value end’ is ‘booming; doubling in size in just 5 years.‘ This naturally has led to pressure on the supply chain.

Fast Fashion gathered pace from the end of the 1990’s when brands began to look for new ways to increase profits. Globalisation had grown rapidly in the 80’s and 90’s and paved the way for value and mid price brands to shift the bulk of their production to the developing world where labour and overheads cost a fraction of those in Europe.

Traditionally, most fashion labels have produced two main collections a year, spring/summer and autumn/winter. However, in order to keep the customer focused on the high street, High Street brands needed to create some interest within their stores mid season.

Certain companies re-examined their supply chains and developed a system which several other brands then followed. They segmented their supply chain, keeping basic items manufactured in the far east but brought the production of the more high fashion items closer to home.

This had several benefits. Firstly it decreased their financial outlay on forward orders and also allowed them to make decisions about the fashion items much later in the season. This added flexibility and ensured they were able to react to the market quickly and deliver ‘on-trend’ items within their stores.

This model could then be developed through the use of new technological systems which linked all parts of the supply chain together. This new system allowed for the development of ‘just in time’ manufacturing and has now developed to a stage where they are able to turn a garment around from drawing to shop floor in just two weeks.

Consumers reacted positively to this trend which in turn has resulted in the widespread speeding up of fashion. The emphasis within the industry has moved from price and quality to a deeper focus on time. H&M and subsequently Zara have been the catalyst for this shift within the industry.

Zara’s success story begins by offering a product range capable of catering for men, women and children, providing affordable and stylish clothes whatever the season. Coupled with this, is their keen eye for discovering new fashion trends and translating these trends from the catwalk to the high street, both quickly and affordably. Zara boasts a marketing strategy of firstly product variety with a focal point of ensuring speed to market. At present, Zara launch 10,000 new articles per year across their portfolio of stores. Finally, store location, as any marketing is left to store location rather than advertising. Opting for a strategy of minimal advertising provokes the consumer into having to visit their stores.

The consequence of increased consumption is longer hours from factory workers. A Sri Lankan factory owner interviewed by Oxfam demonstrates the pressure they are now under;

“Last year the deadlines were about 90 days… [This year] the deadlines for delivery are about 60 days. Sometimes even 45… They have drastically come down. Instead of 40,000 garments being manufactured across four styles for 20 weeks at a rate of 500 per styles per week… all that is firm is the first five weeks across four styles at 500 per style per week. This is a commitment to 10,000 garments. The remaining 30,000 is unknown. Nor is there any promise of how many styles and at what manufacturing rate per week." 

Fashion is getting faster and faster, spinning not entirely out of control but certainly spinning at a rate that can makes you dizzy. If you want to be in fashion, you've got to stay in the race. But at what consequence?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Why couldn’t cars be manufactured on a completely customizable, made-to-order basis?

Companies including Ford have taken a stab at made-to-order automobiles over the years, but no brand ever has committed serious purpose and resources toward the goal. Until now, apparently.

Another automotive brand that has nibbled around the edges of customizable vehicle manufacturing for several years now, says that it is committed to a robust experiment in made-to-order automobile production and retailing.

BMW, which is also teasing consumers with a Don't Blog About This "secret car" stunt (above), is getting ready to start promoting made-to-order car manufacturing.

BMW North America Inc. CEO Jim O’Donnell told that BMW plans to use TV commercials, print ads and a heavy online marketing to tout its made-to-order program for its X3 model. That will include the ability to watch your individual vehicle being manufactured, via webcam, at the company’s Spartanburg, S.C., assembly plant.

Besides the lack of automaker enthusiasm, there are two other major reasons that build-to-order never really has caught on. One is that Americans by and large seem perfectly content to purchase their vehicles off inventories on dealer lots. Another is that true customizable manufacturing strains a supplier-and-assembler network to go beyond the current state of the art in just-in-time logistics.
But if anyone would be enthused about having exactly what they want, as quickly as they want it, it would be BMW buyers; for that reason, there are three extra colors and two extra leather choices available only to purchasers of customizable X3s.

And if BMW really can give them up to six days before production to change orders — and still deliver their X3 to them within a couple of weeks afterward — made-to-order could become a real feather in BMW’s brand cap.

O’Donnell points out that the time might be ripe to launch build-to-order because his company – and other automakers, to be sure – have made great strides in keeping extremely tight control on vehicle production during this recession. Made-to-order customers are expected to want their cars fully loaded, which boosts margins. And the vehicles don’t have to sit on dealers’ lots, weathering the elements and racking up finance charges.

HT to Brandchannel

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Brian Solis' Conversation Prism

Version 3.0 of Brian Solis’ Conversation Prism that highlights a variety of social services has just been released. It looks like we’re seeing an increasing number of services and I wonder when we’ll start to see social media consolidation.

Defining social media analysis

So many new terms so few definitions!

This post from Forrester Research answered some key questions:

Question 1: Social media analytics and social network analysis: Are these simply two ways of referring to the same applications, or is there some important difference between them?


Social media analytics refers to BI tools—reporting, dashboarding, visualization, search, event-driven alerting, text mining, etc.--applied to information sourced from social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Social network analysis is advanced analytics that is specifically focused on identifying and forecasting connections, relationships, and influence among individuals and groups; it mines transactions, interactions, and other behavioral information that may be sourced from social media, and/or just as often from CRM, billing, and other internal systems.

Social media monitoring is real-time analytics that uses complex event processing (CEP) to acquire, filter, and display events taking place in social media.

Social intelligence refers to the trend toward incorporation of social network style interaction models—such as those associated with Facebook and wikis—into the BI user experience.

Question 2: What are the key applications for CRM? What’s the business benefit? Who’s doing this? What business processes do they support? Is anybody doing both social media analytics AND social network analysis?


The key application of social media analytics for CRM is listening to and engaging with customers, and prospects, who voice their requirements, sentiments, and issues through social media; product, brand, marketing, and customer service professionals are doing this.

The key application of social network analysis is looking for shifting patterns of influence among customers who drive churn, upsell, and cross-sell throughout communities; this is being used by the same groups that use social media analytics, and is also being used by security professionals to detect and prevent fraudulent collusive activities.

The key application of social media monitoring is identifying, and hopefully predicting, customer issues that surface through social media before they become showstoppers; once again, this is used by all of these groups, plus also being leveraged by public safety and law enforcement to detect signs of criminal and terrorist activity.

The key application of social intelligence is to help BI users tap the actionable intelligence that is in one another’s heads; this is not yet being implemented widely among BI users, due to a paucity of commercial tools.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Best story wins. period.

Tom Peters represents everything about American style management consultants that we love to hate. He's from the loud, brash, gun-slinging McKinsey school of business. But, having sat through a motivational talk (he charged approx. NZ$150000) and read a number of his books I can't help but love the guy.

I just came across this clip from his business strategy series. I love the simplicity of his point that the best story wins.

He argues two things: that the story is more powerful than the brand (the brand is the story) and most importantly that the best story wins. Brands need to translate anything that they do into a short punchy story. It's stuff we all know and it's skills as a motivator which makes it fresh again.

I'm currently working (and struggling) to nail that 30 sec story about a new business. After listening to this in my heart of hearts I know it's back to the drawing board... Good is not good enough.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Burberry and the risks of fashion immediacy

I posted a few weeks ago on Burberry disruptive innovation strategy. Now they have been awarded 'Genius' ranking for there use of digital marketing, I've continued to research them curious to know more. I've just read an excellent post by Imran Amed on The Business of Fashion providing further analysis of their drive towards fashion immediacy.

Amed has often referred to Burberry as the world’s first truly digital luxury brand, what with the phenomenal success of Art of the Trench, the innovative Burberry Acoustic initiative, trans-seasonal collections like “April Showers” and “Winter Storms” promoted via YouTube, and of course the pioneering live streamed shows which in recent seasons have featured shopable items, available for immediate order, with delivery in 6-8 weeks. Burberry has consistently been the fashion industry’s undisputed digital powerhouse.

But there are inherent risks in being the constant innovator and first mover. During Burberry’s latest fashion show, beamed live from London Fashion Week , several models tumbled to the ground from the towering heels they were asked to walk in. All of this was broadcast live to Burberry fans around the world. Of course, models fall at fashion shows fairly regularly, but in the past this would have been neatly edited out of the video that was later shown to consumers. This time, however, the unscripted moment was broadcast live around the world and will live in eternity online. A video of the finale fall posted by London’s Telegraph newspaper has been viewed more than 600,000 times.

That said, the risk of consumers seeing models falling is relatively minor compared to the benefit of capturing the immediate excitement of a live event. But to make matters worse, the Burberry collection reviews from some of the most influential fashion critics were not positive, and not just because of the shoes. Said Sarah Mower, “The problem with direct selling of this kind is that it can cut out a designer’s ability to explore variety in a show, to experiment with a creative way forward rather than satisfy the need to make something that has to be ready to arrive at someone’s door in six weeks.” Cathy Horyn, in her characteristically honest direct style went even further, saying “When I think of all the great collections that Mr. Bailey has done for Burberry, they’ve all been characterized by a sense of emotion that he was willing to put out there. It wasn’t all crass e-commerce.”

It seems the greater problem is that Burberry is conflating a consumer event with a trade event. Critics and editors are looking for an overall message, creativity and perhaps inspiration for fashion editorials, while consumers are ultimately looking for things to buy. Trying to achieve both of these with one collection in one live event is challenging.

Download the full report examining luxury brands use of digital here

John Seely Brown on bio-inspired design

“[A] lot of stuff that we’re thinking about doing now is in new types of material science, nano-science, nano-mechanisms, what I call bio-inspired design. That is what can we really learn from nature’s secrets in order to build interesting things. This is not bio-mimicry, this is actually trying to understand what are the messages about how animals actually work, rather than how shells actually form. What can we learn from really understanding how a gecko can do these amazing feats. We’ve learnt a lot recently and built some amazing machines based on that. It’s very interesting in how, you know you get inspired on one domain and with the act and play of imagination take those ideas into something else. It’s not just building an analogy, it’s doing something else.” John Seely Brown

Exert from my research into design and innovation

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Who owns Gap's brand?

Gap, the American casualwear retail giant, has scrapped a new logo that was slated by customers and will return to using its long established blue square logo. It's further demonstration of how customers  are able to exert ever increasing levels of control of a companies brand image — especially in industries like Fashion which have very active online communities.

The clothing retailer released a redesigned logo on its website on October 4 and had planned to roll it out in marketing campaigns starting next month. More than a thousand people left comments on Gap’s Facebook page, with a majority of them disparaging.
“We’ve learned just how much energy there is around our brand, and after much thought, we’ve decided to go back to our iconic blue box logo,” Louise Callagy, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Gap, said.
The new logo set the Gap name against a white backdrop, with a blue square in the upper-right corner. The logo change was part of that evolution of the brand from “classic, American design, to modern, sexy, cool" Callagy said last week.

Marka Hansen, the Gap brand president in North America, said in an emailed statement. “We are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community … there may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way."

In my opinion it was also a potent demonstration of how out of touch major corporate identity specialists are. I can almost hear Laird and Partners pitch " … we chose this design as it's more contemporary and current. It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward."

Epic fail.

It reminds me of Coke ham-fisted attempts to change the flavor of an American tradition. There was initial acceptance and the product did well it’s first weeks, sales up 8% compared to previous year. However public outrage grew, with groups protesting New Coke (especially strong in the south). By June ’85 there was enough public pressure and complaints from bottling suppliers that Coke execs were under pressure. In July ’85 Coke brought Classic Coke back to the market.

It’s a great story of the risks of innovation. Coke did many things right – their greatest mistake was underestimating their customers lack of interest in innovation: they were surprisingly happy with how things were.

Coke didn't own their brand their customers did.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


A new word for the lexicon; scenius, reputedly coined by Brian Eno and quoted in the conversation (of which below is an excerpt) between Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson in Wired, as they discussed their respective new books.

Johnson: Also, there’s a related myth—that innovation comes primarily from the profit motive, from the competitive pressures of a market society. If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.

Kelly: The musician Brian Eno invented a wonderful word to describe this phenomenon: scenius. We normally think of innovators as independent geniuses, but Eno’s point is that innovation comes from social scenes,from passionate and connected groups of people.

via Eaon Pritchard

Lawsuits in the mobile business

This diagram shows what a litigious lot Nokia is! This doesn't really surprise me given how pro-active they are internally (I work there) at procuring patent applications from the product designers. They pay thousands per successful patent! This has led to all sorts of things being patented (I mentioned this post to a designer today and he said a German engineer patented a Dog Phone - I kid you not!) and then seek huge royalties from those who decide to use them. i.e. Kinetic scrolling is owned by Nokia and the major lawsuit between Apple and Nokia is the use of 2G, 3G and Wifi.

Nokia had succeeded in becoming the market leader by following a strategy of incremental innovation and is well known for its high levels of investment in R&D. Back in 1999 Nokia was the undisputed market leader and had the highest market value of any European company and a reputation for being the coolest telecoms company in the world due in part to the iconic Nokia 7110 'Matrix' phone.

These halcyon days seem to be a distant memory and real question needs to be asked how could this decade long investment in R&D and ongoing commitment to “Incremental Innovation” deliver an 80% loss in shareholder value? The answer of course is the iPhone, I strongly recommend an article on Excapite which analyses this fall from grace.

As a footnote to this story, my favorite example of this the complex world of trademark and patent ownership is the word 'Droid' is owned by George Lucas!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Using design to prototype the solution

I asked Ilya Prokopoff from IDEO for some insights into what makes their approach to prototyping unique. I think there is some really lovely observations here.

He explained, “IDEO goes less deeply into the up-front investigation, but much more deeply into the prototyping and testing, which I think is a very important part of the up-front part of the investigation process. Through prototyping you’re giving someone an experience out in the world to pay attention to. You learn an amazing amount about whether or not that will fit into their lives, or what it does to the world, or what it implies about the organisation that needs to deliver that thing.”

In addition to prototyping IDEO generated insights through reframing and recontextualising their research. Prokopoff shed some light on this “we do a lot of stuff to understand competitors’ landscapes and we do a lot to sort of explore, if for instance we’re looking to take some experience and transform it so that it’s much more ‘impactful’ for customers or whomever you’re serving. We look obviously at those experiences, but then what we call analogous experiences, which are things that share attributes that other industries or other places in the world have addressed in one form or another. So it’s kind of like if you’re designing an emergency room, look at NASCAR pit crew in order to see what they’re doing and the kind of issues that they face and the solutions they generated. One of the things that all of this leads up to is a kind of articulation of opportunity that usually resolves into what we call a human-centred design framework, which is kind of a visual capture of where the innovation opportunities exist for a kind of problem. Sometimes it also resolves into things like design principles, which are also a kind of instigatory descriptive statements for how you could address the future of any given problem and they’re also usually the source for starting ideation.”

— Excerpt from my research into the value of design thinking

Monday, 4 October 2010

Thinking about social media monitoring

Thanks to the rise in influence of social media, a multitude of bloggers, fans and online communities now collectively determine trends and brand perception, driving sales day in, day out through their positions of influence. The uptake in online conversations, comments and reviews has been explosive and the importance of these conversations is growing by the day. Among many other things, people are discussing brands, describing their purchase intentions and asking for assistance in making buying decisions or product support.

Monitoring this activity has become a critical business issue. 

A range of services have recently emerged under the banner: Social Media Monitoring. Through these services brand managers are able to gain insights from the conversations people are having online every day and to make improvements to products, customer service and marketing as a result.

Two of the most widely recognised companies to offer this service are Radian 6 and Scout Labs. You can listen-in on the conversations of their customers, potential customers and other stakeholders in one place through your 'social media dashboard'. As far as presentation of data goes I was very impressed. It's certainly an attractive proposition for over worked brand managers!

Both of these providers make a big play on sentiment analysis which attributes a positive, negative or neutral score to each conversation. This is really useful in helping you determine the themes and topics that are driving both good and bad conversations about your brand, in addition to tracking the overall impact of marketing campaigns or news about your brand.

The obvious weakness to this is the lack of context and 'human' interaction in their analysis of each post, instead utilising a set of complex algorithms to determines the sentiment. I think this is dangerous and misleading.

Sentiment is more nuanced than a simply positive, neutral or negative — using an automated tool to assess how people feel puts too much faith in the today’s software. An ongoing human interaction and interpretation are essential to get real value — fundamentally I don’t believe that anyone will ever nail sentiment analysis as the human brain will always be smarter than any computer.

After digging around their websites for an hour or to and sampling the mood of the blogosphere, I concluded that beyond the corporate comfort of seeing numbers, graphs and sexy charts I doubt there is any real value in this service. 
"We don't live in a binarian world, in which people would be only pro-something or against-something: in opinion surveys, there are more grads, more details, more levels of understanding. Summarizing social media opinions into this pattern is not only wrong, but is a professional mistake: you give fake overviews, fake trends, fake insights, that can lead to marketing disasters. Moreover if you use "neutral" just to sort all the conversations that don't match your sentiment automatic filtering, you're just wrong! Neutral MEANS something, it does not mean "NOT UNDERSTOOD"
Thinking about the how to address this issue I went back to the basics of content analysis to better understand the issues. According to Dr. Klaus Krippendorff, six questions must be confidently addressed in a successful piece of content analysis:

1. Which data is analysed?
2. How are they defined?
3. What is the population from which they are drawn?
4. What is the context relative to which the data are analysed?
5. What are the boundaries of the analysis?
6. What is the target of the inferences?

Each question raises critical points for me about the quality of data and validity of insights from the a computational approach to understanding sentiment.

During this research that I came about an alternative method to Social Media Monitoring which takes a 'community-centred' approach. The critical difference is it uses a different data set and relies on humans to interpret the data — Reflecting on the Dr. Klaus Krippendorff's analysis about effective content analysis, there seemed more rigor and deeper evaluation. 

The community approach analyses the lines of sociality focusing on the link structure of the internet, intensity of peoples conversations, direct and indirect interactions, how people imitate each other and the context this takes places. Leading practitioners like Linkfluence, then evaluate this data using a series of metrics appropriate for social marketing. These include:
  1. Influence: Shows the likelihood that a message published on a site will be broadcast.
  2. Penetration rate: Measures the level of presence of a brand, a company or a product per community.
  3. Share of voice among competitors: Measures a brand, company, or product’s presence in each community compared with that of other players in its industry.
  4. Repetition: Measures a message’s exposure given its repetition rate.
  5. Engagement: Measures the intensity and diversity of exchanges around a brand, company, or product.
  6. Return on investment (ROI): Shows a message’s exposure and broadcast rate compared with the objectives set upstream and compares it to market standards.
As a result, this approach enables you to identify and rank the most influential blogs, fans and online communities that impact your business. Reading about there service I see you can create 'hit-lists' of key influencers, lead users and trend-setters relevant to your brand then evaluate every conversation, hyperlink and comment relevant to your brand, products, trends and competitors.

The sum total of this is a richer, more relevant set of measures and data, all collected, evaluated (by humans) and transformed into deep insights about the underlying issues, sentiments and influencers driving the conversations and how they evolve over time.

My conclusion: Take the time and go for a deeper, more time consuming approach as it ultimately yields more profound understanding and insight into your market.

2011 Consumer Trend: MATURIALISM


Thoroughly exposed to (if not participating in) an uncensored, opinionated and raw world (especially online!), experienced consumers no longer tolerate being treated like yesteryear’s easily shocked, inexperienced, middle-of-the-road audiences. Able to handle much more honest conversations, more daring innovations, more quirky flavors, more risqué experiences, these consumers increasingly appreciate brands that push the boundaries.

Example: The Icecreamists

The Icecreamists is a UK ice cream brand that has positioned itself using premium, X-rated flavors. The Sex Pistol is the most recent flavor, featuring ice cream mixed with ginkgo biloba, arginine and guarana and La Fee Absinthe. The Sex Pistol was deemed so potent that sales were limited to one per customer during its appearance in Selfridges from September to November 2009, retailing at GBP 11.99 per serving.

Trend Driver: The Collapse of Conventions

In mature consumer economies, a 'CASUAL COLLAPSE' seems unstoppable:  we’re talking the ongoing demise of many beliefs, rituals, formal requirements and laws that societies have held dear, which continue to collapse without causing the apocalyptic aftermath often predicted.

People have grown up immersed in consumer culture - they 'get' it. But as savvy, streetwise consumers, they are bored, if not downright distrustful of the conventional consumer-producer relationship, and now look for brands and products that are more authentic, more human, and quite simply more mature.

In emerging consumer societies, there’s an obvious link between the broad spread of more liberal attitudes and increasing urbanization (URBANY). As new arrivals find themselves distanced from traditional social and familial structures, and are exposed to a wider range of alternative goods, services, lifestyles and experiences, their tolerance to these alternatives grows, as does their interest.

Now, deep social and cultural changes don’t happen overnight. We're certainly not suggesting that everyone becomes overwhelmingly liberal as soon as they move to the city, but the clear trend is for urban populations to have more diverse living arrangements, and have more socially liberal and tolerant views towards abortion, euthanasia, casual sex, homosexuality, religion, drug use, women’s rights etc.

Example: Ben and Jerry's Icecream

Last year, US ice cream brand Ben and Jerry's partnered with same-sex marriage campaigners Freedom to Marry to rename their Chubby Hubby flavor Hubby Hubby. This was to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in Vermont.

Trend Driver: Online Culture

Online culture isn't confined to the web anymore. It's everywhere. And it's pretty candid.

Two billion (!) individuals are now online, adding to and commenting on every possible topic, from politics to business and yes, brands. And they aren't holding back, to say the least. The resulting 'online culture' is bold and often uninhibited, and that casual candor shapes people's expectations. When companies find themselves the subject of discussion, their scripted, staged and cramped responses show just how out of touch many of them are.

In fact, the gap between the sanitized, litigious, politically correct corporate world and mature consumers wanting to experience something more daring and unscripted has never been bigger. Which in our book spells opportunity.

Case in point: the increasing popularity of anything that's 'live'; the MATURIALISM angle is that live experiences can't be edited or controlled or censored, and thus offer the rare possibility of surprise, excitement and 'realness' that mature consumers enjoy.

Oh, and remember: just as consumers can now speak unfiltered, so can grown-up brands. Anything goes online, gone are the days when messages had to be suitable for mass broadcast on TV. Meaning you can speak a specific audience's language, rather than having to tone it down.
Example: Marmite XO

In March 2010, Marmite, the yeast extract spread brand, launched Marmite XO, an extra-old, specialty variety aimed at the brand's biggest fans. During the campaign, the brand's superfans helped identify the new product.

More on this campaign from the agency who created from We are social.
"One of the exciting parts of this project is the way we were able to use social media to help Unilever develop the recipe for the final product – hats off to the Marmite team for making this happen, and enthusiastically joining in the theatrical experience. It’s great to get brand advocates actively participating in the product development and packaging design, as well as creating content for the launch campaign. And of course getting involved in the  conversation."
Trend Driver: Status Shit

The sources of status in mature consumer societies are moving beyond the BIGGER, FASTER, HARDER sphere. The vast mass of increasingly sophisticated, increasingly wealthy, increasingly urban consumers are ever more try-out-prone, more demanding and more daring as they search for the next big thing or the next big STATUS STORY to dazzle or discuss with people. Constantly exposed to, and increasingly tolerant of and enamored by modernity in all its gritty glory, today's hyper-consumers positively embrace innovation, creativity and unconventionality when it comes to consuming products, services and experiences.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Twitter is the sound of one hand clapping

Well, almost. According to a Mashable’s coverage of the Sysomos report on the Twitter ecosystem 71% of all tweets produce no reaction. Taking time to Tweet is not quite the sound of one hand clapping but it’s not far from it.
"Perhaps our tweets really are just pointless babble after all, or maybe they’re just so remarkable that our followers don’t want to taint them with a reply or retweet. We’ll leave it to you to decide."
Over on Excapite they have another interesting take on the effectiveness of social media and the wisdom of crowds based on the very different Super Bowl strategy embraced by Pepsi this year.

Apparently Pepsi spends about $30 Million on their campaigns during the annual Super Bowl festival of advertising. However this year Pepsi decided to fund a number community renewal events across the U.S. instead of advertising during the Super Bowl.

The marketing exercise is called “Refresh Everything” and it’s costing $20 million. Today it boasts a Facebook page with over 400,000 fans.

Putting the press coverage that the program has received aside for the moment let’s put this campaign into some perspective as an advertising and marketing strategy. If Pepsi had stayed with the Super Bowl they would have reached over 106.5 million people (perhaps as high 153.4 Million) at an average cost of $0.28 per Football Fan. Instead Pepsi now has 400,000+ Facebook Fans acquired at a cost of just under $50.oo each.

I doubt if Pepsi will be counting on Facebook fans as the sole measure of the performance of the campaign. But I do believe these Virtual Fans of the ”Crowd Sourcing” campaign provides us with some insight into the relative cost vs. effectiveness of social media.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Relentless curiosity

Designer’s have a unique mindset was required to sift, sort, assign value and create insights from large amounts of information. Useful skills in this day and age!

Doblin Group consultant Jeff Tull described the explorative design mindset, “even when you’re gathering data you’re inherently analysing it, it’s never discrete, but the challenge is to identify, pick signals, find meaningful patterns” … “most design decisions are done using very subjective, qualitative, intuitive sort of decision-making models. So quite literally you look at one or two things, size them up with either a sensory or aesthetic sensitivity that is very difficult to articulate, and say that’s one better.”

John Seely Brown believed that the design mindset required “an ability to understand how sense making actually happens. How do you come to read something? What are the cues that you actually use? How do you actually shape those cues so that they’re slightly different? For example, a good landscape architect can shape the landscape of the land and it just affords you without even knowing to find your way towards the front door. But you take away that landscaping and you may not be able to find the front door. What’s going on in the landscaping that subconsciously pulls you to the right place?”

I came to describe this behavior during my research as relentless curiosity — an apt description!