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Digital marketing in a laboratory?

Photo from Digital Marketing Lab in Singapore, 2014
On of the many active, collaborative, parts of the Digital Marketing Lab in Singapore, 2014.

Earlier this year I was in Singapore running a 4-day lab on digital marketing. Running it as in collaborating with Hyper Island (and the wonderful Maria, who’s responsible for the Labs within Hyper Island) in tailoring the different parts of the content around which to, well, lab.

Other labs include rapid prototyping and social – both very suitable to do hands-on lab type of workshops, especially rapid prototyping of course. Our first collective challenge with this lab was actually figuring out the labs ingredient.

A laboratory (/ləˈbɒrətəri/ or /ˈlæbərətri/; informally, lab) is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research,experiments, and measurement may be performed.

We were definitely in a controlled environment. For 4 full days in a large, open, area approximately 20 people with different backgrounds worked together. Representatives from Google, business consultants figuring out what to do next, community managers, account directors, digital creatives and even recruitment professionals. We were experimenting with propositions, hypotheses and opinions – all open for debate. Hypotheses around how organisations needed to, perhaps, rethink and reorganize how marketing was viewed, budgeted and executed. Very much perceptions of what has been true, but not necessarily anymore.

One key challenge we gave the participants was a hands-on assignment – a brief – from a multinational brand, very much recognized for having momentum and guts to rethink its existence and purpose. Both from a consumer product/brand point of view, but also from an organizational sustainability point of view. This assignment was evaluated by key representatives from the company (the measurement part). My role very much being that of a nudger, suggester, questioner. Without digging into the ideas – there were some really great stuff, some of it actually already in the pipeline within that organisation which says something about its commercial viability. Impressive.

A participant’s recap and reflections on the digital marketing lab

I’m not going to share anything detailed, because one of the participants has shared a quite extensive summary of the digital marketing lab. It’s one individual’s summary, and someone else might recall it differently. But what strikes me is how some of the content that I shared (Simon Kemp of We Are Social, Singapore also shared his) is obviously referred to and has thankfully been helpful. I like that.

Posting your video on YouTube does not make it Digital Storytelling. Building a story of your brand, creating an experience, a feeling, a journey (that holds together across platforms), something worth remembering – and telling others about. That’s digital storytelling

But. If I were to highlight a few key nuggets that I keep coming back to as fundamentally important, from the digital marketing lab but also from doing presentations and workshops (and everyday work) around digital strategy (challenges), they’d be a bit different and framed in another way. Which brings me to the conclusion that I probably need to get my stuff together and share it in a properly packaged and connected manner. Easy to share with more people. Easy for people who have been in workshops to access and refresh or get clarification.

So, in a while I suppose this will be a link to the first of a series of post. Which means this post about a lab participant’s post is a trailer for posts to come.

Meaning based brand development

For quite a while, I’ve been using Ford as an example of a brand that’s redefined itself (or rather refocused) from car manufacturer to what they refer to as a mobility brand. I think it makes all the difference.

What they did early on was team up with ZipCar on US campuses, getting young drivers (note; drivers, not car owners) to get into Ford cars. Stats on that car selling challenge here. Now, of course the meaning with owning a car is transportation and mobility (not taking into account the, to be honest, not so small addition of signalling something about you as a person, which I think sits equally much in what you choose to drive and not just what you own). Hence a new business model. You may come from manufacturing and selling Ford cars, but that’s not necessarily the business for ever after. If Ford viewed their meaning market like Avis do (Avis bought ZipCar), they’d step past the competition by way of a business focused on getting people transportation – whether that’s a BMW, Volvo, Ford or whatever car brand. Potentially pretty drastic from a scaled up business model perspective .

Envisioning freely what Ford could be doing and what the larger meaning market could be, and what offers and services fit in, you touch on selecting models and vehicles. So I’m always thinking why not be able to buy the sporty one – but get 5 free rentals a year for when the family needs a larger vehicle for soccer games or something like that. You know, bake that in as the augmented product. Relieving difficult choices, in a way. Because it’s not about buying a car, it’s about transportation, mobility – even family logistics, when you think about it.

So now I found this similar offer/service/nudge from BMW to make the decision of buying the i3 easier. Good one.

The exercise of thinking Product (category) vs. Meaning (value of the (bigger/multiple) market(s)) is one that I stress every brand and organisation to do in a recurring manner. It sits in the project/process/challenge of figuring out the digital strategy, mind you. It’s because technology and digital, if we allow ourselves to refer to it as loosely as that, is driving societal changes. That means what you do, who you are and how you do things – can, and will, drastically change. Meaning your basic existence is the topic. That’s a cultural question, not a technical one. And that, dear reader, is the most importan distinction to be made when getting an organisation of not-so-tech-interested people to start pulling in the same direction. To feel ownership in a question that they, hence, understand and grasp (culture and meaning as opposed to that “digital stuff”).

I use meaning* and not purpose. I might seem like semantics but I think the two are distinctively different. With brands defining their purpose, I think often we see an inside/out perspective still lurking there. It’s our purpose (for us) vs. the meaning (for users). Meaning is about the new markets (and business ideas, models and revenue models) that can be identified and that may not resemble anything your used to from before (scary). The value they provide and generate. Purpose is centered too much around a statement about the brand and doesn’t get “verbified” as well.

Have you phrased, framed and begun the cultural transformation that is the result of technological change yet?

* I am aware that if you are looking at the word meaning in the context of brands and consumption, we also have another definition in the consumer culture research discipline. I use meaning markets more in a business development sense, where function/utility takes precedence over the development of signaling powers of brands, although the two are intertwined.

A Ted Talk where Bill Ford Jr shares some thinking on the future of transportation and mobility (2011).




Medieorganisationers större roll i samhället

Tidningar, nyhetsorganisationer, journalistiken (?), mediehus i en bredare bemärkelse har problem. Utmaningar drivna av teknisk utveckling, och med detta förändrade beteenden med betalningsovilja betyder grus i maskineriet. Knappast en nyhet för någon. Men som en mycket intelligent man påpekade, så kan man inte lösa problem på samma nivå som problemet skapades.

I många fall betyder det att dessa tekniskt drivna förändringar och utmaningar inte nödvändigtvis löses med hjälp av tekniska lösningar, utan lösningen ligger på en djupare, mer fundamental nivå. Från två medieorganisationer kommer två exempel, inte på lösningar, men intressanta steg som vittnar om en utvärdering av sin roll i samhället. Sin mening ur ett större perspektiv och därmed nya möjligheter att tackla utmaningarna.

Det jag enkelt kallar meaning markets (och skrev lite om här) är ett förlösande koncept/metod/arbetssätt. Absolut besläktat med begrepp som brand purpose men mycket mer aktiverande än så. Brand purpose är en form för att, som så ofta, kort och koncist utrycka ett varumärkes kärna och syfte. Ett viktigt konstaterande, men inte så speciellt drivande i sig. Att aktivt arbeta med meaning market genererar riktning, idéer, förhållningssätt och även nya/alternativa affärsmodeller eftersom det hela tiden söker slutvärdet för användaren. Inte ingångsvärden. En verbifiering av purpose helt enkelt.

Medieorganisationer tycker jag är extremt intressanta ifrån detta perspektiv. Vad har vi dem till? Vad är dom för oss i samhället? Förr i tiden väldigt tydligt nyhetsförmedlare. Mycket papper. Initierade, inlästa, ifrågasättande och granskande. Men varför?

Medieorganisationer beskrivs medievetenskapligt utefter ett gäng parametrar så som organisation, medieteknisk beskaffenhet (etermedia, print etc), juridiska aspekter, affärsmodell och så vidare. De skiljer sig på olika sätt, men hur man än vänder och vrider på det så är medieorganisationer det (starka) klistret i samhällskittet som ju förutsätter insatta och upplysta medborgare, och aktiva kanaler mellan samhällets deltagare.

Betyder det då “bara” rapportering eller har detta av historiska (och medietekniska) skäl varit så bara för att…?

The Guardian har en väldigt framåtlutad och offensiv inställning till deras roll i framtiden. Globaliserad organisation med exempelvis satsning på USA. Digital first-initiativet är mycket tydligt. De är erkända som bland de bästa på nyhetsvärdering, men inte nödvändigtvis de bästa att snappa upp och rapportera. De kan alltså inta en mer faciliterande roll, med samma slutmål, och gör också detta genom tydliga initiativ kring citizen journalism.

Guardian Reporting

Det är då ett naturligt steg att för ett mer kollaborativt arbetssätt (och globaliserat perspektiv) börja utbilda. Inte journalister, bredare än så. Vad de kallar Guardian Master Classes har växt till sig.

Att arbeta för att stärka samhällskittet, inte själva bara rapportera och granska. Samma mål, mycket större mening. Större marknad, ökad och bredare relevans samt möjligheter att generera nya typer av intäkter och bättre knyta användare till sig (lock on, som en kollega utrycker det).

SvD tillhandahåller “SvD Läs och Skriv”

Även SvD har reflekterat över sin roll bortom rapportering och ett samtidigt konstaterande av minskande intresse ibland yngre personer. Med “Läs och Skriv” agerar man proaktivt och inte endast efter ett rapporteringsfokuserat syfte. Man spelar en aktiv roll i skapandet av intresserade (och läskunniga) medborgare. För det är målet med rapporteringen, men därmed inte sagt att rapportering är den enda aktiviteten eller metoden. Intressant, och förhoppningsvis mer än en sidosyssla.

Här finns sådant som är relevant för tonåringar. Jag läste en krönika om skolor som slösade pengar på reklam; det var något som jag inte hade tänkt på förut, säger han.

– Alexander Willemsen, 15 år

Att få engagerade samhällsmedborgare är ju jätteviktigt, säger hon och tillägger att ungas läsförmåga och samhällsintresse är centrala frågor för en demokrati.

– Madeleine Ellvin, lärare

Det är inte svårt att komma att tänka på mängder av företag – varumärken – som kämpar för sin relevans, momentum, betydelse(fullhet) och lönsamhet. Hur många är inte de som tuffar på, bakbundna av det man alltid gjort? Vad kan de göra? Vad skulle de kunna vara? Jag påmindes att posta de här raderna som legat och skrotat som lösa reflektioner när följande citat dök upp på en skärm nära mig.

“Every organisation eventually becomes inward looking, bloated and loses sight and becomes pretty much useless”

– Steve Forbes

Ouch!

Patagonia, are you asking us not to buy?

I recently bought a Patagonia jacket. Which made me think of this. Worn Wear. Not just the fact that they do in fact become stories and memories, but the reaction from a lot of people when Patagonia explicitly encourages people not to buy their clothes.

I can hear proponents of the concept of brand loyalists scream. Of sales people squirming in their chairs. But it all aligns beautifully with how brands grow, and how brands can resonate, if we think about it.

Aware Patagonia loyalists, because it’s quite likely one of the fairly few brands who actually have real loyalists. Those who go quite far to stick to Patagonia. But those people are few, and they’re most likely very environmentally conscious already.

Another thing is about the message here. It’s not so much about the message, even though it’s very clear, true, and firmly positions the brand as a true “do good brand” with a purpose beyond making quick bucks. But it’s also about how they make this public. It’s so real. There’s not an ounce of fake in here even coming from a brand. I wrote/commented a few lines on how brands publicise themselves creatively here.

And with this in mind, lets just remind ourselves that there’s always people out there, however environmentally conscious or unconscious they might be, in the market for a new jacket and pants. And those people can buy from a number of brands (except for the exceptionally small group of die hard loyalists), all of which would suit their needs. The question is about who do they come to think of first? Who resonates more?

A few of those people might take you up, reconsider, and get used clothes or maybe even repair what they have. That’s a win for Patagonia. But enough people will get something new.

So, as Byron Sharp and other myth-busting researchers have pointed out to us – go for penetration, because the potential buyers are everywhere. They’re not loyal, they’re just likely buyers, to a varying degree.

What Patagonia does isn’t risky, it’s doubly good (and they’re f***ing awesome).

connected intentions

“When you use Buycott to scan a product, it will look up the product, determine what brand it belongs to, and figure out what company owns that brand (and who owns that company, ad infinitum). It will then cross-check the product owners against the companies and brands included in the campaigns you’ve joined, in order to tell you if the scanned product conflicts with one of your campaign commitments.”

We want to do good, make the right decisions. Eat green, wear helmet, give to the needy. What we say and want to do doesn’t always (almost never?) equal what we actually do. Attitudes and intentions might be there (I said I’d start wearing a helmet, and really meant to, for about a year) but behaviour is held back by barriers often ridiculous in nature.

The Buycott app, covered here in Springwise, is an example of a phenomena where those barriers, standing between intentions and behaviour, are lowered. When intentions are enforced and supported effortlessly, things can get interesting. Users/consumers tend to forget, but if forgetting gets harder, there’s even more pressure on brands.

Brands need to think harder (and try harder) to operate in a world where active and intentional (strategic) brand building more frequently is done through operational actions, decisions, etc, and less so through intentional brand communication.

Doing bad stuff has always risked ending up in the news or search results, but it (generally) demands momentum, a high “shittiness level” and a collective outrage. We’re alerted (and reinforce) though common sentiment and mass behaviour in a connected society. Connected information like this, which helps our intentions by becoming connected intentions, doesn’t. It becomes as individual as the wine suggestion app in a bottle store.

That doesn’t mean groups and social pressure doesn’t exert power on brand choice/decisions, but an added – again comparably effortless – nudge and reminder is potentially big. In a way it’s what connected and quantified self is/will be for daily health decisions in general.

modern day brand building – advertising as a byproduct?

Welcome to Detroit from Shinola on Vimeo.

This is a nice post by Edward Boches covering Shinola, a brand I myself just recently came across flipping through Men’s Style on Flipboard (ehrm), and how well they build their brand (so far).

What’s noteworthy is that this is not about building a brand in a new way, often including opinions around the death of TV, the insanity of bought media and extinction of print. And it’s not a case of proving how traditional advertising still works. It’s about how modern brands understand it’s not either/or, it all compliments each other, and that the most powerful thing is to have a purpose, and hence story, beyond – but not irrelevant to – the commercial interest.

This isn’t about going viral or driving millions of views, rather it’s more about telling the brand story, providing easily embeddable elements, and building a library of content that doesn’t feel as disposable as most advertising.

Boches

The thing with advertising being disposable and, in general, increasingly being disliked, distrusted and enjoying less acceptance is an interesting one. It’s not just that there’s more and more bad, lazy, poorly crafted advertising speaking in a voice that’s disconnected from reality, it’s that there’s often not much of a counter weight.

Advertising, at least as we tend to narrowly define it today, should be no more than a byproduct (and certainly not the sole product) of a commercially curious creative company.

Gareth Kay

People are ad literate enough to understand how advertising works – polished by agencies, constructed and often exaggerated – but if that’s all a brand is going to serve, then screw you. If a brand opens up and shows a greater depth, signs of being in sync with society, people, vision, reality, you are much more likely to enjoy a greater acceptance to your advertising.

Think about a great brand experience you’ve had, and how that affects your perception/acceptance of their advertising. That’s brand experiences in a broader sense.

Increasingly, to get meaningfully noticed is through delivering on the unexpected and over-delivering on the expected. Not very advertising centred, but very much commercial creativity.

language hinders you from creating for your meaning market

There are product categories and then there are meaning markets. Well, to me there is. I keep coming back to the importance of brands thinking about themselves as having meaning in a greater context. What is the meaning with us? Of course viewed from the other side it’s about what value do I (user) get out of them (brand). And when corporations can ask themselves that question from the perspective of a consumer (customer centricity) is when you start seeing opportunities within a/your meaning market.

Product categories are limiting. Ford as a car brand? Then go ahead and invent better cars (and product innovation is of course needed). Ford as mobility brand? Then it makes perfect sense to team up with (hell they could have started it) Zip Car and help sell transportation by the hour to consumers used to buying music by the song, as Gretchen Effgen, of Zipcar, put it a while back. Joint miles program with air line? Why not.

In digital transformation (i.e. business transformation, mind you) – definitions, perspectives and self perceptions makes all the difference. This, by super smart Deborah Mills-Scofield, I liked:

“There is a balance between using the past to understand the present and guide the future, on the one hand, and on the other, creating something fresh that leaves the old behind. We need analogies to understand the new (eg, horseless carriage) yet they also hold us back by it constraining our thinking (eg, horseless carriage).”

– Deborah Mills-Scofield, In HBR

And if you think that’s only about semantics and words, here’s the knock-you-straight business version from Peter Drucker.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Almost all clients I’ve come in contact with and in any way consulted in digital transformation, whether tactical or strategic, the issue has sat there. Definitions. Definitions reinforced by legacy. This keeps you distanced from the future. Regardless of how evenly or unevenly distributed it might be…

brands as a part of our environment and more

Camper is a quirky shoe brand from Mallorca, Spain. You react when you see them, from the characteristic “one-way-show-string” models, to the “rounded soldier boot meet clown shoe” inspired style but perhaps primarily their stores, in which their shoes are presented in a very artful way. It’s somewhat of an experience to browse the models which is nice.

I like the reflection below, about how Camper and its stores is part of the cities they’re in. And when you design a store, you can take cultural (and perhaps even political!) differences into account, hence looking at it from the perspective of adding, changing or commenting something that exists, in the greater context of things. In the case of Camper, using different designers to design stores around globe, resulting in drastically different experiences, it’s
“more a cultural thing”, rather than commercial, says Miguel Fluxá.

When we started to open stores outside Spain we thought it was interesting not to repeat them. The world today is becoming a little bit boring, everything is becoming the same. So we thought it was interesting for the brand, and for the cities, to do different designs from one place to the other. We started to do this many years ago and it’s something that has given us a lot of identity and has worked quite well over the years.

– Miguel Fluxá of Camper, via Dezeen

Camper in-store design
In-store design, from Dezeen.com

Being Agency Of Record

A while back there was an ongoing discussion about the future of the advertising agency. That time it was not about them moving into service design and products, the way it is now (agencies are always needing to change into something else it seems, or at least talk about it), but it was about digital agencies vs. tradtional agencies as “agency of record”. Did the traditional ones get it? Would the digital ones grow up? It turned out it wasn’t so dramatic, and I would say that the agencies acting like good consultant are probably the ones still referred to as AOR. Why? Because good consultants don’t have one truth, as in It’s all digital now or social media is where it’s at or TV is dead – X is the answer etc.

No, good consultants start with their clients and then look for what seems to be true for clients’ situations. Quite nuanced. Less of an agenda, other than end results. More open and likely to identify connections and not just dots.

This is why Heiselman thinks that advertising will become a sales tool not a brand building one. The only way to clinch the deal is to offer a deal, and that is my big concern. If people are constantly bombarded with special offers, they will soon become sensitized to them.
– Nigel Hollis, in Will advertising become a transactional tool

> Data driven, contextual (dumb or otherwise), centered around offers.

Advertising vehicles that allow you to “engage” and have “conversations” with your brand’s heavy users by promising precision targeting provide very limited opportunity to grow your business. In fact, they often distract you from your proper objective – attracting new customers.
– Ad Contrarian, The Hidden Danger Of Precision Targeting

> On the belief that people want to engage with brands. For some, often few, that is the case, but it’s definitely not be all end all.

What are people’s aspirations? How does the brand play a role in it? I would employ anthropologists and psychologists and look at cultural analyses. We should be doing that with channels and places and spaces that consumers are engaging with every day. While advertising has tended to be more channel-orientated I’m not sure we, as strategic planners, have been putting the same emphasis on understanding as we should have. That’s what I’m hoping to bring.
– Abigail Posner, Head of Strategic Planning, Agency Development, Google, on “How brands can humanize their digital experience (PSFK)

Those consultants, agencies and other companies who want to understand how things relate, that don’t love specific tools and solutions more than others, are the AORs. By understanding what needs to be done while not necessarily being able to do all themselves.