Monday, March 23, 2009

Moving to a new home

Recently I have been taking more of an interest in the ability of branding to embrace bigger issues such as social and environmental good.  Its not an easy question to work out how marketing and sustainability can work together.  To my mind its important, interesting and largely unwritten.  All things that made me want to set up a new blog which you can find here.  Funnily enough lots of the same thinking applies but a lot of the answers make more sense i.e. its just what brand marketing had been looking for... something to care about; I call it brand substance.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The the brand construction business

A bit of arm chair keynotes work and I think I have accurately managed to recreate one of the key ideas in the Cluetrain Manifesto.  It was a book recommendation that I got from Neil indirectly through his presentation on brand generosity which i think is really good.  

Well done to us in the brand building industry who have managed to build a big wall between the 'us' that sit inside companies and the 'us' that sits outside.  There's nothing wrong with walls - I have even helped build a real one once and it can be pretty satisfying.  Having said this some walls are an unnecessary division with some famous examples.  This type falls into the latter category. 

We also by default created the general rule book that goes with the notion in order to keep it safe and secure...


-Feel free to talk to the ones on the outside but stay to the pre-approved script 

-Its probably best if only one person speaks on behalf of the rest for all important conversations

-Better still and if they can afford it they should appoint another group of people who are excellently qualified to understand exactly what the ones on the outside want to hear and a great at coming up with one liners that sum this up


-Try not to speak to those on the inside as this is an expensive nuissance

-This applies for companies that you are on the outside of, for your own company see above

...The new type of brand services as ever will be in complete opposition to those of the present. Making connections between people inside and outside of companies - lets call it brand networking, in order to cut through the casted, constructed, homogenised and contrived face that the 'company' has been paying us for years to build.

(Before I forget, this is the perfect example of blurred line thinking.  To imagine what the world would be like if you removed the line between two worlds - Like how Einstein did with time and space.   Move the line between the two and you are left with spacetime.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Agency of the Future

Dug this out and dusted it off recently - Its a piece I wrote in January 08 about the new kind of marketing communications agency and at the time I must have been feeling pretty optimistic about the future.  Having said this a few things I have seen recently make me think it could be starting to look more realistic.  I'll have to think about what to wish for in 2009!


            The agency of the future should be geared up to deliver to the following…

-The future of client needs within the advertising and communications business
-Guidance in the future economy and the disruptive effect this will have on the way that client businesses make money
-The sustainable future of the planet

It will be set up as a sustainable carbon neutral enterprise which is indicative of a broader set of values based on the personal values of the people who work there. A sustainability ethos will breed a whole host of general benefits to the company such as a sense of personal engagement of staff, a sense of community, the positive client experience that this personal feel will achieve, a way to attract talent in the future, as well as first mover advantage in the battle to attract the clients of the future.  

It has two core services which are ‘double sided’ (which makes 4 in total.)

1a – Solutions planning
1b – Sustainable solutions planning

2a – Experimental new business models
2b – Sustainable experimental new business models

What is Solutions Planning? Why are their two sides?

The current marketing services model is not equipped to deal with the inevitable influx of new business opportunities that will emerge in the next 5+ years. The core output of most agencies is message based communication which is increasingly coming under threat.  

Current agency models are under threat because…
- advertising is becoming less effective
- Media is owned by consumers and therefore so is brand creation
- There are many more types of non advertising brand opportunities available
- There is a need for marketing output to have benefits in their own right in order for consumers to choose to use them – the rest ends up as expensive wallpaper.  

As this happens brands will need a whole host of new techniques that are not served by most existing agencies. These techniques will be the core offering of the new kind of agency. They will need to be more real, more human and more purposeful and will include…

-Brand innovation over advertising innovation
-Non-advertising end to end service solutions
-Participation marketing
-Collaborative and community based initiatives
-Brand networking (connecting companies with consumers, other brands, specialists, and partners versus creating an image that sits between these potential connections)

                At the same time it is predicted that sustainability will be bigger than the internet in its impact on business. Message based communication is even more ill-equipped to solve the problems created by the need for sustainable marketing ideas and initiatives

Current agency models are not equipped to deal with sustainability because…
- Messages can not have a green outcome… actions speak louder than words in this area!
- Sustainability can not be based on brand image
- It has to be driven by people and communities not brands and advertising

When you look at all of these more human and personal approaches that are needed for sustainable marketing you actually find that they are exactly the same things that any marketing company should be embracing in the future regardless of green issues.  In other words the expertise and understanding that is needed for sustainable marketing solutions is also the same as those that will be needed for all future brand solutions.  

              In the near future the two service options will be available to clients but beyond this it is expected that these will merge until ultimately all clients will only need sustainable solutions for their businesses.

What are experimental new business models? Why are their two sides?

The above describes the transition beyond the conventional advertising model and also into sustainable marketing that the new company will specialise in. However this is only one part of the offering of the new kind of agency.

Increasingly the role of the client marketing department will blur with the rest of the company in its remit. Instead of looking for communications opportunities it will increasingly be needed to look for business opportunities.

This is generally true because
- advertising is becoming less effective as a driver of business growth
- the new digitally driven world means a continual state of revolution
- greater collaboration between consumers and the business itself (not just the brand) will be needed

- With lower barriers to entry an experimental model is necessary which means trying things out in the real world.

Instead of an advertising agency businesses will need innovation agencies who can seek out, consult on, and introduce new business opportunities on a rolling basis. The exact services would need further development but they would include;

-Seeking/designing killer applications that could change the business model 
-Arranging brand and business partnerships in order to open up new markets
-Monetised communications solutions
-Idea generation and internal facilitation in order to devise new business models
- Trial and testing for new business ideas

Having said this the real disruption (and opportunity) that will face business and challenge the existing practices will be the prevention of climate change. Consumer pressure, government mandates, and market forces will mean that rapid and radical change will be necessarily.

- Companies will have to be nimble due to radical and quick changes
- Industrial production and consumption will become less viable forcing companies to shift towards more of a service model
- Most existing business models are inherently non-sustainable and so will not be able to compete with new sustainable models. Every company will need to be looking for these and fast!

             In the near future the need to be creative with the business and how it is profitable and not just in the communications will be important for companies.  However beyond this it is expected that every company will specifically need a spirit of constant innovation toward replacing inefficient or wasteful practices and ways of making money, with more sustainable and therefore profitable options.  The agency of the future should be a partner in achieving this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Google Index 4.0

The sum total of the content that sits on the Internet is a lot of data.  But computers these days are pretty good at dealing with lots of data.  The secret to Googles success is to trawl through all of this data and then to create an index for it that means that any one who wants to find something can initiate a search of this index in order to find what they want.  

Google has two ways to improve the power of their index.  One would be to make it smarter.  More information, more meta tags, more intuition of my intentions based on my search terms.  

The other is to make the index bigger.  Indexing every place in the Internet is the current scope of business.  But Google earth and Google maps are no coincidence.  The ultimate goal has to be that every single piece of data that relates to anything and anyone is in the index.  In this version of the future everything can be reduced to piece of data and be made searchable.

Apparently the line in the business is that search is now running at 5% of its known potential.  If this is the case then you would assume that the search advertising business is also only firing on 5% of is potential as well.  If the entire world was able to behave like a Google link (i.e. by pointing some kind of mobile device at an object that you want to buy or find more information about,) then the only kind of advertising would be search advertising.  Ultimately every type of marketing will have to operate a Google style business model.  

This is 'blurred line thinking.'  To think about what the world of brand communication will look like when everything is search and search is everything.  This seems pretty inevitable.  The only question will be who is running the thing.  Will it be the non Google media players who adopt a Google like mentality or will it be truly a Google earth!?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Baz Luhrmann is clever

I have been writing recently about thought particles (and here / here).  The concept that ideas can be understood as a type of chemistry.  That a flow of thought particles can be exchanged and remixed between people into new and different forms.

We think we experience the world in absolutes i.e. we see things as they are and feel them as they are meant to feel.  The job of the film maker would therefore be to simply try and recreate the world as it really is in the most accurate way possible - do this and it really will feel like the past, or a different country or a relationship between two people.

What this forgets is that the only kind of reality is our own; it is unique to the individual.  I did not live that version of the past,  may never have been to that country nor experienced that kind of relationship. 

In other words simulating something as it seems to be might not be the best way to communicate how it actually is.

This is where thought particles come in.  For the creative person they are a toolkit of raw materials that can be fused and combined into any configuration they see fit, to transmit a meaningful experience.  It may not end up looking, sounding or feeling like it might have done in real life but could be a far stronger, more captivating, and then strangely somehow more real than pure imitation.

I think that Baz Luhrmann on some level works in this way to create things more compelling than reason would allow.  Instead of trying to copy a story from life he seems to play with the ingredients and mix them into forms that should not make sense.  

For example to understand the past you do not have to have it accurately recreated; this might not tell you anything.  Nirvana may be better for bringing to life the atmosphere of the 19th century than the music of the time itself.

Before I saw him interviewed I thought that his style could be simply a kooky way of seeing the world (similar to Russel Brand,) that looks strange to us because the cogs driving it are out of sync with those of the rest of us.  In other words creative flair.  Having seen him describe the process I now think that its more structured and rigorous and thought through than this.  A good argument for this would be the amount of time it takes to make a film (Australia has been 6 years in the making.)  He seems to be engineering the experience that he wants to create not like an artist but more like a chemist.  What if you wanted to strip down the individual 'particles' of your film from light, to colour, words, landscape, sound, etc... and then think of them only as components or raw materials, taking as little as possible for granted while doing it?  What if then you re-configured them meticulously into the unique personal experience that you wanted to gift to the audience? Then it would be little surprise that you might end up on the project for a pretty long time.  


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Don't be Evil

If you wanted a corporate philosophy and hired a consultant to help out you would have ended up with something a lot more styled and poised and balanced and wooley than the one that google came up with... don't be evil.  I listened to a podcast recently that said that corporate strategy is ruining the world i.e. it stops grounded logical human decisions being made.  'Don't be evil,' sounds more like something a person would say than a company and it feels naive and almost childish as a corporate strategy.  The smart business person would choose their path not on a general consensus about right and fair but on any path against any logic that was put forward that could be justified as the most profitable out of all of those available.  If it always worked out like this then you could hardly argue with it, but then Google don't seem to be doing so bad.  

What if the expedient corporate strategy route meant unimaginative confused employees, or partners that don't trust you, or inconsistencies with your offering, or worst of all customers that don't have any good reason to choose you or even have reasons not to.  Then that path looks fraught with problems.  Like so many other things Google was ahead of its time.  The anti-brand had the brand strategy of the future... make human kindness your big idea.  Google don't always get it right and they have had their fair share of criticism where the slogan gets played back to them with an accusing finger, but generally its easy to believe that they mean it.  Its pre-installed into their hardware. 

Monday, December 01, 2008

If you love them let them go

I was thinking that my most recent listen from was going to be a bit of a bore - the history of search.  Actually its quite riveting stuff.  Its easy to forget that the Internet revolution came from almost nowhere to almost everywhere in just a few short years.  One of the most interesting and captivating things to my mind is that so much of it was so concentrated in its creation in Silicon valley and more specifically the channels that lead there from Stanford University.

One of the most interesting insights that the search engine pioneers realised was that success comes to those who can send people where they want to go.  Now search is such an essential part of life this does not seem like rocket science.  Actually though it is counter intuitive.  Yahoo and Aol were obsessed at the same time as google was starting to get traction with keeping people in the portal - stickiness was the buzz word.  The search service that was offered by these portals was not seen as a source of strategic advantage but more than this it was seen as as a bit of nuisance.  The better your search the more people would leave your environment to go somewhere else where other people could make money out their presence.  This was of course before the ad words business model had been invented.

Until then nobody saw the strategic advantage of navigation, they just wanted you to go to  their pitch and never leave if possible.  This seems like ancient history now that search is all conquering.  Having said this there is an argument to say that beyond silicon valley very few other people have caught on.  I you think of your average brand websites they could be likened to suburban houses on the cul-de-sacs of the Internet.  Dead ends that might be a little bit pleasant but ultimately represent the narrowing of opportunity and the end of a journey.  I can imagine a meeting where some digital brand manager suggested that their brand could become a route to anything good online in the field that they opperate in.  I can also imagine the case being shot down by the argument that the big Portals used just a few years ago while search was changing the world.

Like so many things it seems like the exact opposite of the way we do things in marketing might be needed.  Brand destinations are actually launch pads.  The consumer journey should run straight through them to a whole other world of opportunity.  Pull this off and the right to be the gateway to the sector awaits.  The old adage could be true... if you love them let them go!