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Archive for the category “Campaign”

Digital story telling. View from a massage table.

Come on. Dim the lights. Bring out the aromatherapy candles. Play some soothing Thai spa music. Lower the volume just a bit. Oh yeah!

I can barely see the warm tubs of oils, hot stones, moist towels, the steam rising. Not to let my mind wander though. I am at work. Need to complete a strategy note by EOD.

You know why I am advertising, don’t you? It’s mid-afternoon, I am lying on a couch in a posh spa getting pampered. The Mad Men days may be over for our business. And anyway, I am a digital guy.

I am putting together a strategy presentation for a new client. And I am soaking it in, the brand experience. Exploring options, feeling the stuff, poking, prodding and getting my thoughts ready.

As the masseur’s trained fingers run up and down my back tickling out hidden knots and pockets of stress, I am thinking of the brand story. A spine, as it were, around which this luxury spa brand will unravel it’s POV to the world.

Ah! I love my job.

The client will see no numbers, click thru rates, fan counts and such in this presentation. This is higher order stuff. The foundation of a brand, built around its brand story, its truth.

What’s the big deal, you may ask. Any good advertising person is supposed to experience a brand, live the experience, use the product and come up with a POV. What’s new?

Well, digital needs brands to be richer. Offer multi-layered story lines that get played out depending on the channel that is being used. More importantly, since brands can own media platforms on the digital channels they operate in, they can tell longer, more detailed stories unlike with traditional media, where they are constrained by sizes or time limits.

So how is this story coming along? Let’s for argument sake call the spa at home brand “Soul” and imagine that I am putting together this multilayered brand story document for them.

Let me begin with the brand proposition. Soul. Luxury spa at home. Hmm nice. Looks like new territory for me. I begin to construct the brand’s story.

If you have, like me, been lucky enough to interact with a smart lady called Story Ninja you too would have learnt a few things about stories. The theory around stories. About concepts like the Monomyth and The Heroes’ Journey as propounded by Joseph Campbell. In conversations with Story Ninja I have come to learn that there are basic patterns that can be found in all universal stories. And as I construct a digital strategy for Soul, I dive in to build a compelling, multi-dimensional narrative that can make deep connections with people.

Additionally, I reach out to the teachings of former MIT Professor Henry Jenkins and his wonderful approach called Transmedia Storytelling. Or, how in today’s world with multiple digital and traditional media platforms stories can play out differently, across these platforms and yet create a powerful and unified whole as the participants in these stories (people) put them together. Advertising planner Faris Yakob has taken this thinking and furthered it for use in advertising, which he calls Transmedia Planning.

So as I think of the brand story for Soul I am constructing a simple, universal narrative from within the Heroes’ Journey and then use transmedia planning to play it out to the world.

I can’t disclose the brand story that is coming alive in my mind (NDA and stuff my friends) but I can share the platform thinking. From the company’s website, to the many digital and social media channels that are available to brands these days. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, 43 Things, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin. Throw in a porn site even, YouPorn, why not? For a brand that makes massage oil, let’s have some sensual “how to” videos up there too.

Told you, love my job…

So I can see the streams coming together. Soul: Luxury Spa at home, if that is the proposition. Unlike a traditional advertising, where I will be constrained by ad sizes or spot time limits, I can think free. Have long sensuous videos play out on video sites. Seed them across the web using Facebook and Twitter. Build a good profile of the company using a smart website to help Soul come across as a solid and reliable brand. Talk about individual products and their secrets using blog posts. Show beautiful images of Soul products and how they can be used, on Instagram and Pinterest. Build the reputation of people behind the company on Linkedin. Cross link stuff around so I can optimize the company’s site for search engines. Sweet! I can see this working on me. Not the massage, silly! The startegy.

Apart from the cost of building the Soul website and some monies incurred in production, I have not spent a dime in media costs. So while historically a brand would have a 90:10 split between media and production, all that Soul is incurring is in production costs, and of course the fat fees they pay me for helping them get their digital act together.

So before I doze off, and if you are still with me, here are the take outs. In the world of digital brand building, we need to imagine richer, multilayered brand stories. While executing these stories don’t worry about space and time constraints. Instead think platforms. So what you do on YouTube need not be what you will do on Pinterest. Each platform has a grammar of its own. Consider that when building brand stories. People who are on these platforms expect a certain behavior from others around. So instead of thinking traditionally and narrow casting your brand around one line, or around a slogan, think wider. Think richer.

Finally. There are a few kits of Soul that my client wants to give away. Would you like to receive one? Post a comment below and I will reach out to you. Brands in the digital world are all about giving.

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An Agency of Makers.

In a first for a non-technology company, Unilever brand AXE had called for a developers’ day in early October.  One that I believe has a strong message for agencies.

Digital is the way ahead. Yes!

While there’s nothing path breaking about this fact, I’d like to argue that agencies can participate in the digital revolution in ways we have never imagined. Not just by being partners of our clients as we have always been, but by making things for ourselves, and profiting from it.

Planner Griffin Farley is one of the smartest minds out there. He makes an interesting point in this presentation on Fringe Planning, and I borrow shamelessly (God bless the Internet).  Slides 16 and 17 are noteworthy.  “Ad Agencies have recruited some of the smartest creative people out there.” And 17, “the byproduct of agencies are ideas that don’t get sold, or are not appropriate for a particular client.”

I see the second point as particularly appropriate. With agencies thinking up more business ideas as part of the integrated marketing communications mix these days, than merely communication ideas as they did in the past. For example, this Cannes winner from Tesco is not so much a communication idea as much as a business changing idea. Or the recent announcement from Shoppers Stop of setting up a Facebook store is a business idea, and less a marketing one.

So how are agencies taking advantage of the rich stream of “by products” they create? Griffin has listed out a few in his deck.

Anomaly, an agency with offices out of New York and London discovered YouTube amateur Lauren Luke and helped her develop, manufacture and market her own range of cosmetics. This is not a one off from Anomaly. They have developed a few IPable ideas, including ShopText, a mobile based shopping and couponing and commerce service.

There are other agencies too who think alike. Among the better known ones, BBH has Zag, a brand inventions agency. Deutsch has Consigliere, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal and Partners  have KSBP Ventures. While independent traditional agencies have set up innovation shops, there are a new bunch of making agencies building things and creating a niche for themselves. Breakfast out of New York, Definition6 , the guys behind the Coke Happiness Machine, Deep Local, who built the NikeChalk bot, or London based agency, ustwo, who have a portfolio of client work and a bunch of independent products.

What connects these new agencies? Unlike traditional agencies that spend their energies creating communications ideas, the new ones are focusing on out and out innovation for their clients and for themselves. Thinking product ideas, which can be patented, to create intellectual property and build new revenue streams in the future.

A simple way for agencies to take advantage of “making” opportunities, we have to go beyond the campaign mentality. For example, with mobile apps, now accepted as a tool for marketing. (Most traditional agencies have an app or two to show off these days which means we have cracked the model of how to imagine and make them.) So instead of doing an app for, say, a diwali mela campaign, could we think long term? If we can understand the key reason for a person to buy a brand or use a service and then build something that fulfills an unmet need.

As this story in Fast Company points, can agencies think more like startups, and less like communication partners? Or as advertising planner Russell Davies goads us so eloquently in Wired UK, make things, not messaging platforms.

In a changed world, there are ways of making them happen. Thomas Freidman pointed us to some mega trends in his bestselling tome The World if Flat. For this story, the key ones from the book are outsourcing, rapid prototyping, workflow software and supply chaining.

So an idea, that comes up in a brainstorm, ideas that we agencies are so good at spotting, can be scaled up with help from partners who the agency has relationships with, and taken to market with the support of a client, or independently.

To do this we will need to add new skill sets though. Which is where agencies will have to have the startup mentality. We have rarely hired to build revenues in the future. But an agency with a headcount that runs into many hundreds can afford a small team of geeks, engineers and project managers for sure.

In a state of the union address early this year, Barack Obama told his country that their future lies in taking leadership of innovation. I believe the same should apply to the communication business that is seeing its fundamentals shifting with the arrival of the digital revolution.

DIY culture is a growing trend. This trend is spawning whole revolution, led by small groups of people who are using technology, easy connectivity, access to venture capital and microfinance.

Advertising as an industry that has a rich history of identifying and nurturing creativity. Unlike engineers, we are masters at helping find a way to make things that make an emotional connection with people. Could an agency create the next Angry Birds, Instagram, Klout or Hipstamatic asks this story. I believe we have the credentials. The inclination? Let’s wait to hear from the winners of the Axe developers’ day.

The Joy of Failure

In most agencies Digital is cool these days. And as a digital guy, you can walk around with this smug,  know-it-all expression. Augmented Reality? No problem! Shoskales? You should ask me! SEO? I know abbreviations!

Or you can expect to be branded a heretic and be ready to be foisted onto a stake for giving clients and agency colleagues the feeling that something complex can be done, without actually having done it before.

I must admit that I have been at the receiving end lately. Accused of being a complete loser who jumps onto new technology bandwagons (Hype Cycle, as Gartner puts it) because it’s out there waiting to be done (a campaign on Percolate anyone?). Or plunging smooth running client relationships into crisis by trying to do audacious things.

Frankly I’d rather die a trapeze artist trying to do one new stunt after another, rather be a Spanish goat herder stuck by lightning while he took a midafternoon siesta. Yes! More than ever…

Since the early seventies theorists have been postulating the emergence of the Attention Economy, where for brands and ideas, getting people’s attention is going to be the biggest problem. Traditional communication models like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) are being threatened because of our reducing attention spans and the proliferation of devices.

While old theories are being laid to rest every day, ideas that once sparked and shone are biting the dust more often. This is not just true for traditional advertising ones, but for newfangled digital and nontraditional ones too. While Coke’s Happiness Machine version 1was a viral rage globally, attempts to recreate the magic have not been as spectacular. The original Old Spice Man Twitter response campaign got far more traction digitally than the recent shootout with Fabio.

But that’s not the point.

The point frankly is that we don’t know. We don’t know for sure what will work, and which ones won’t. And we have to believe that this to be the first principle of our business. Be prepared to throw away rule books, process documents, research methodologies and more in today’s over communicated world. Many ideas that fall in within our brand and communication comfort zones right now may not make any impact at all amidst all the noise around us.

Sure not every idea will be worth people’s attention. And that has always been the case. But to believe that tried and tested approaches will work again and again is to believe in the value of diminishing returns. I think we in agencies and at client offices have to build a culture of trying new things time and again. Create ideas that can creep into people’s attention spaces that may not necessarily fit within the boxes of advertising or marketing. So even if they are too busy to pay any attention, the sheer novelty of these ideas mean they get seen, heard and discussed.

Now there’s so much more motivation to step out and swim across to the unknown. The Cannes Lions Advertising Festival broke the rules this year renamed itself to the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. Awarding ideas that refuse to be contained in neatly defined boxes and silos that fall in our traditional comfort zones.

What would you call the Bing J-Z Decoded campaign or Tesco’s tryst with stores in the subway? Or the exceptional work done by the German agency Kempertrautmann for Hamburg Philharmonic? Here even the conductor agreed that the idea was crazy, when she first heard it. How would you measure such ideas even before they are approved and executed? What frameworks would they fall in?

We may want to pause and reflect on this.

Are we asking enough questions about our ideas, when we complain that are 99% of all advertising campaigns don’t cut it creatively? Why are we satisfied with just 2%, .2% or .02% banner clickthru rates? I could go on…

While attention is scarce on one hand, we are spending more time to seek out things that really interest us. Surely some of this can be advertising. Additionally, in this age of wonderment, most of the magic is being created outside departments that may not be designated creative. Also, the landscape of communication is being disrupted even by little kids armed with a computer and an internet connection.  As organisations that are being looked at as places that produce new and breakthrough ideas, we need to step right back in and claim our position. Whatever it takes.

As author Kathryn Schultz celebrates so evocatively in this TED talk, On Being Wrong. “Our capacity to screwup, it is not some embarrassing defect in the human system, something we can eradicate or overcome. It’s totally fundamental to who we are.” So if you have 20 minutes to spare. And it is not totally wrong to spend some time watching TED in office, maybe worth jumping in and listening up. Steve Jobs urged the class of 2005 at Stanford to stay hungry, stay foolish. Maybe we should too.

Dear Nike, I am not a consumer…

I have been a Nike fan forever.

Just looked in the shoe rack and there are 5 pairs of Nikes of varying vintage there. I wear Nikes for work and play, my kids wear Nikes to school. Recently a pair that I use for my morning walk lost a rubber padding on the sole. So being a fan, I thought why not write to the company whose products I so love.

The email id put me off a bit. “consumercare.india@nike.com. While I do understand where the word comes from, I never think of myself as a consumer of anything. In Nike’s case, I am a fan, a believer, an advocate and more. I have a poster pinned up in my head from an old Nike campaign that goads me every morning, to wake up and run. It reads, “Either you ran today, or you didn’t”.

If I have to get in touch with Nike, alas, I have to come under the nomenclature “consumer”. I want to be a fan, perhaps a team member, a co-runner…

But I am only a consumer in their books. They have a section on their website under a link called consumer care policies. Care is a better word though. Policies, terrible…

All of this put a bit of doubt in my mind about my relationship with Nike, and since the mail was formatted, I shot it out.

Promptly comes an auto response from the server.

“Dear sender”

My relationship with Nike is coming apart 😦

P.S. To be fair to Nike. I did get my shoes repaired for free at the local Nike store.

Coke’s Happiness Ambassadors.

Now that the hype behind the world’s best job has died down, let’s welcome Coke’s Happiness Ambassadors. And these ambassadors are on a mission to find happiness in the 206 different countries that sell Coca-Cola products across the world. See the introductory video here. Participants in teams of 3 had to nominate themselves and go through some grueling rounds of voting to get to become the team to visit all the countries that sell Coke the world. The year long mission starts in Jan 2010. Visit the Expedition 206 site here. More here

Repositioning A Homeless Man

A nice little experiment is underway in Minneapolis where copywriter Todd Norem helped write pan handling boards for local homeless man Ed and reposition him as an independent business. By using retail language and humor people were forced to see homelessness in a new way. As a result Ed’s earnings went up by more than 800%. See the campaign here.

Financial Literacy Through Advertising

AdCouncil is the place for work that educates and informs people on different things. So it is perfect timing that the AdCouncil run a campaign on financial literacy. Here are links to two campaign they are running at the moment. One for general public, here. And another for young adults, here.

Helping Teens Online

As with any good thing, the negatives turn up sooner or later. This campaign proves that the connected world is not all good news. Lawmakers are struggling to find ways to fight the menace of digital violence. The digital violence can include sending nonstop text messages or posting cruel comments on a boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s Facebook or MySpace page. The behaviors can be a warning sign that a teenager may become a perpetrator or a victim of domestic violence, according to the group. “This is another generation of domestic violence,” said Peggy Conlon, the chief executive of the Ad Council, which worked with the Family Violence Prevention Fund on the campaign. Thatsnotcool, the campaign that’s digitally intensive was conceived by RG/A. Watch videos here. Read a story in NY times.

Pay Debts Faster With Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo has announced new tools to help consumers save more while reducing what they owe, while also introducing resources to use credit better for a lifetime. The Wells Fargo Debt Pay Down Solution allows customers to consolidate their monthly payments through a personal loan and help find money to pay off the loan faster.
The bank is also offering the
Wells Fargo Cash Back Card and the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card to incentivise customers to pay down debt by offering cashback rewards that they can use to reduce credit card or personal loan balances or add to checking or savings. Wells Fargo is also introducing its Smarter Credit Center, an online resource center with information about how to establish, rebuild and use credit. More from Payment News.

Life Without TV. Will Radical CMOs Reshape Marketing?

As the upfronts loom many big brands – like General Motors and Citibank – are slashing their spends on television advertising out of necessity. But another factor to consider is the maverick CMO who is willing to spend a lot less on TV advertising or cut it out entirely. Partially, it’s a response to market conditions, but some marketers say the economy is prompting them to take a chance on new forms of marketing. Susan Lintonsmith, CMO for Red Robin, said the economy is definitely one impetus for going without TV. “It’s a little of everything,” she said. At Best Buy, CMO Barry Judge has another view: TV advertising is important, but can be undermined by a bad consumer experience, so he cut his TV spends by 40 percent and opted to spend it on increasing staff in the company’s stores and on improving the company’s Web site. Other marketers are moving away from TV because they feel that there are other needs their communication budgets need to fulfill. Like in the case of Century 21st, where the CMO felt that the brand had 98% awareness, and that their customers were looking for information in other areas. Research has shown them that most potential home buyers or sellers—about 87 percent—go online before making a purchase. So they took money out of TV and are reallocating it to online—namely paid search, display ads and social media. Read the full story in BrandWeek.

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