discovering stories that stayed put

Location really was the missing dimension of digitally mediated [personal] communication. The variable that made the question “where are you” or “where is that happening” redundant. Of course a call to a mobile phone still calls for it, but not too seldom my calls are triggered by a check-in I’ve seen.

Where someone was when you called them was never unknown before. You called someone and if they answered, they were home. Or at work, or wherever you called to. You sent someone a letter and if they received it, they obviously came home. An early question upon calling someone might, however, have been where have you been, and that question held much more interesting information than where they were at the time of the conversation. As that’s wherever you called them.

You can tweet and move. A tweet here and a tweet there. Another person tweets here and tweets there. With location meta data you can see tweets in your vicinity. Check-ins let you see where friends and others are at. Small messages floating around everywhere and often they have very little to do with the location other than the fact that you were there just then. Check-ins are just that.

But as soon as we gather for a venue at a place, a hash tag gives the place a twitter feed. The feed belongs to, or originates from, a place. The belongs to part is what I think is a lost aspect that holds some potentially interesting ways of discovering things from the past at that spot. It’s quite interesting if that feed, with a hash tag working as the shepherd, were to be connected to the spot for that venue. Continuously. Not just the initial check-in that serves as a “Hi, I’m here”, but the ongoing conversation. They tend to part ways as the participant’s communication, about whatever the venue is about, starts flowing.

I’d like to find locations with feeds attached to them, and discover stories told from that place. To find out that, for example, music lovers had a Bob Dylan night at [location] 2 months ago. Just from being at the place. And being able to find parts of their discussions. Perhaps I’ve found a music lover cafe.

But It’s like my colleague said: “Real time is nothing after real time”.

It’s true. Just after real time, it’s nothing.

Just recently there was a gathering about the digital world called SIME (funnily enough this was discussed: The age of information is dead and the era of storytelling just began. and I’m using it as an example of how we could be stumbling over stories. How appropriate.). Some of the discussion can be found at #sime10 (don’t know for how long), and physically it took place at Cinema Saga. If you check in today (29th Nov 2010) you’ll see it’s the Stockholm International Film Festival. You won’t, however, discover that SIME 2010 took place a week before. And you will most certainly not find that SIME 09 was held in the same spot a year earlier.

You’ll find recent check-ins, who’s checked in most, but nothing about what took place here. I think that would add something useful to a place. I mean Google is intangible discovery first while a check-in is a tangible, location based, discovery first. I think the two need to be more tightly connected in the later case.

The check-in is a “story” starting point and #sime10 the story unfolding from that place. I think it’s only right that it partly sticks to that place.

But I really enjoy coincidental discoveries of a third kind of whatever it is I’m writing about here. They make me smile. They are check-ins with comments to spots created while in a car queue or some other passing situation or event. There was a queue here, but not anymore. Another person was here, in the queue, but not anymore. That person, at that time, was pissed off and told us in a comment. He/she is not pissed off anymore (I should hope). Nothing is really there anymore. Yet the comment is always what feels most real and most present to me. That’s science fiction.

connecting [fashion] people to [fashion] brand

I came across “Who you are and what you do is your brand“, over at Seth Hosko’s blog, about how Gap does things the wrong way, and that they should learn from H&M and Uniqlo. He’s not alone. If the crowd sourced logo re-design was a hurried and panicked decision or a plan, I don’t know, but what they’re doing doesn’t strike me as strategically sound (and it’s a badly executed one too, but that’s more subjective). The statement is definitely right in the H&M case; that who you are and what you do is your brand, as they’re about affordable fashion for everybody and they really connect with everybody. Affordable fashion yes, but still they have a key to the finer fashion world through collaborations with well known fashion designers. They’re quite remarkable in vision, strategic decisions and in how that is carried out.

Here’s a project we did for our client H&M (full disclosure; I work for Gyro and H&M is a client), and pretty much all about connecting people to brands. The Lanvin for H&M launch, for the first time via digital/social media only and not as they usually do; with big outdoor campaigns, TV and that package.

So really simplified; how do we launch the designer collaboration through social media only, and sustain interest, and engagement, over a significant period of time?

H&M launched lots of cryptic films, if you will, about design and what it is, where it comes from and its importance to many. Framed in a way that it generated heaps of commenting and guesses.

Films kept coming, and so did comments and guesses.

Fast forward. The designer is out; it’s Alber Elbaz of Lanvin. Fashion world exclaim woohoooo!! Trending topics on twitter and all that. The films have talked about his view on design, influences and inspiration and consequently his way of transferring this to fashion. Successful fashion to boot. Fashion that is loved.

At the same time, 4m+ H&M fans on facebook, many of which are fashion interested bloggers, are spending time and energy on expressing what they like and perhaps even live for. It’s about their inspiration, their taste and their influences. They too transfer this into something appreciated by others and hopefully even commercially successful.

We facilitated a collaboration with these people, in order to spread the word about Lanvin even further, while giving them something back; traffic and attention. Hard currency in a blogger’s world. A widget helped gauge the love for their blog, and give them a chance to win the exclusive trailer to the big Lanvin for H&M show. Only to feature on the winning blog, with H&M directing traffic their way. So people joined, got the widget and gauged their blog love.

Competing blog

Zet Fashion - the winner of the competition

This little widget had value for fashion bloggers, and relevance in where and who it came from. The strategy was to connect. And the small execution was the connection, reaching millions of people, engaging tens of thousands and finally promoting only one. It generated heaps of traffic and attention to the winning blog (strangely enough, the clip wasn’t ripped as we had thought, given we didn’t have an embed code. After all, views should happen on the winning blog). One lucky winner enjoyed a wave of interested fashion peeps. Here’s the case film.

Untitled from Gyro Scandinavia on Vimeo.

H&M – also for people who love horse riding

Facebook has provided a great new way for brands to connect with people. But why you should connect, with what goal in mind and how to do it can be tricky and the answers are different for for every brand.

When we got a brief from H&M, more specifically the sponsor part of H&M, we were asked to conceptualize, start and help get off the ground, a blog featuring two long time H&M sponsored riders; Malin Baryard and Peder Fredricson. A good brief with a sound thought behind it given the massive interest in horses and horse riding amongst, primarily, young girls and teenagers. Exactly where H&M start selling their clothes. Clothes these young women can afford. Now they wanted to connect with them better, not just around the events but all through the year.

To make a long story short, after a period of netnography (on some of the very few active and interesting communities that existed – the latter opinion later confirmed in interviews), observational studies during a long weekend at the Göteborg Horse Show coupled with a number of visits to horse riding schools, stables and plentiful interviews – it was pretty clear to me. People who love (think The-Beatles-crazy-fan-screaming type of love) the two riders are closer to 7 than 15, meaning blogs haven’t really entered their world yet. The 15+ year old horse riding fans on the other hand, aren’t that crazy about these two riders. Why? Because their interest covers so much more; the whole horse riding circus. When our riders aren’t doing very well, or when they’re not participating in a certain event, the horse riding circus doesn’t stop. So looking at this from a larger context and bigger meaning perspective, what we had to do was capture the interest of the older group interested in horse riding rather than two riders, but at the same time give them a prominent and important role. Grab a bigger piece quite simply.

Where we would do this was obvious, and it’s not a blog. We created the very descriptive facebook page We Love Horses, brought to fans by H&M and (at least for the time being) headed up by our two riders and their bigger team.

The trick is to start small but have an idea and a plan for how it can develop. But never as fixed as to not be able to deviate or change the plan based on community input. It’s about high and low. Simple everyday activities that asks for participation and comments, updates from the life of a professional rider, quizes, educational articles on horse riding techniques, injuries and nutrition etc. Stuff that provides real value to these people. In our case coming from some of the top experts in the industry working with our professional riders, including the much looked up to stable girls who handle the day-to-day caring for the horses. The girl everyone wants to be, in case they don’t make it onto the horse riding circus themselves. Those are the lows, meaning everyday things.

The highs require some more exiting ideas such as competitions, participatory content generation, live streaming from events where no media go, behind the scenes photos and live-tweeting from the riders and interactive games even.


A web show hosted by our sponsored riders covering the whole industry.


A flash based horse riding game created for the We Love Horses fans to compete against each other.

Brands on Facebook is not a campaign

Brands setting up a Facebook presence sounds really simple, it’s just a Facebook page and a bunch of stuff. That’s exactly the important point to be made; setting these things up from a technical perspective is easy. But when it comes to launching a social media initiative the harder part is the organizational implications. In this case, get our riders up to speed with twitter, posting pics, mobile camera interviews behind the scenes. And that goes for the whole team. Will they be up for it? Do they understand the long-term engagement? Social media, unless it’s a short lived campaign (which often is not a good idea), is about managing a program. It’s about having long-term content strategies and never ending ideas and activities. It’s not a campaign, it’s a program.

Update 2011 – An example of how We Love Horses is used as the primary platform for behind the scene material, live streaming from events often not covered by media, as well as the place for the most up-to-date news from major horse riding venues. Something that got some coverage in 2011 when H&M sponsored the Stockholm International Horse Show.

trust me, hold my (tattooed) hand

pirate arm

Symbols talk very loudly, tattoos included. We’ll see doctors and psychologists with tattooed sleeves and backs, maybe even neck. What does that say about the person? Not necessarily anything about their competence, but how does it make a patient feel or think? It’s an interesting clash of old norms and unspoken rules and today’s society of, should we call it, popular visual self-expression.

rob campbell on ideas

The discussion about ideas vs. ad ideas has been going on for a while. Not amongst everyone in the industry, far from it unfortunately, but many. Although Rob’s presentation didn’t contain completely new stuff, It’s about the most exciting. I thoroughly loved it and the fact that he weaved it all together. To one edible little 30 minute fortune cookie. And did it in a very amusing and clear way. I hope I present like that. Plus that moped idea is right on, and makes you wonder “what’s been going on before that”? The answer being that we think of products as we’ve always done. Not from the user’s (people) perspective and its context (culture).

stop thinking campaign

I recently did a presentation, with 3 colleagues of mine, for Ericsson employees. Marcom people. It was about storytelling and we basically talked about both uncontrolled and controlled storries. The magnificant campaign for Halo 3 is incredible storytelling of course. Controlled, directed and well thought trought. We all love it, who in the industry doesn’t?

Another aspect of storytelling, or perhaps rather story creating, is uncontrolled. I mean social media, free media. Facebook groups that hate or love your brand for example. Your story is being told/created/added to right there. Get over it. Presentations on slideshare – spreading uncontrolled. Everything is getting more and more transparant and that transparancy will have/has had implications down to product development and quality. Support and contact etc. WoM weighs heavier than any traditional advertising. If you want thumbs up, create a good product. The thumbs up will come, via free media channels and real people. This is not an ad campaign, but it drives sales and brand liking or whatever you want to call it. Clients have a hard time getting that. I mean really getting it.

Now I met with a couple of guys today (one of which was Piers Fawkes who was in stockholm, so we had a quick likemind get together; nice to meet you). I’m going to make the long story short – they have a great idea, soon on the market, that scans blogs and analyses the posts, and posts linking in to posts, from a psychographic perspective. I can’t explain, but fucking awesome. The amount of research that I, and other planners, need to do to get the info they presented is heaps! And it takes time! It was a bit like motivequest but another step, if I’m not mistaken.

Now in order to have an incentive to stop thinking campaigns, I think this tool (and others that will come) is the tracking/measurement that’s lacking. And the research community, that’s talking about what research methods to use in the future will like it. They’re talking about it but not much is happening.

On another note; I wonder how the meaning of the word “friend” will change now that we befriend people online but also defriend them for different reasons. All of a sudden friend is not just connected to an actual person and face as it used to be (or dog or whatever, but flesh and blood anyway). Maybe not at all and I should stop wondering about dumb ass stuff like that.

Hitler and Apple

I read an article today about politics, design, symbols and the parallels to product brands and the fact that (says the author, Kim Salomon, professor of International History at the university in Lund, Sweden) the differences are minimal. Hitler was inspired by brands from the business world in general, and the German company AEG in particular.

The notion that a product alone isn’t enough, but that it has to have an identity and stand for something more, hold aspirational values, and even feel like it fits in a life style, was something Hitler understood. He also saw the importance of style and design. Regardless of how one feels about Hitler and his philosophy, he did manage to find a very strong symbol (and typeface, architecture and illustrations etc). An nice looking brand book really. Hugo Boss, apparently, had a monopoly on the black SS uniforms because there were very strong restrictions when it came to licensing the “products”…

Nazis, communist China, Fascist Italy and the soviet union were very good at brand strategies and selling their political ideas. The leaders were used on posters, houses, newspapers etc – and I have to say that Hitler, Musolini, Mao and Lenin do look strong (well, Mao doesn’t always look so strong perhaps). The mustache, the smile and the shaved head. Old Nazi posters do look powerful with the stylish, well designed and thought through (not to mention the typography). Of course, now they connote very negative feelings first and foremost.
Design does evoke feelings. In the Apple case – even people with no estethical interest can be attracted by the slick package the beautiful iPod comes in. Slick, minimalistic and high quality. In the Nazi case, I can’t help but marvel over the communication pieces, which of course was exactly the aim back then too. In that case the beautiful branding sold a crap philosophy.

Apple (oh, the never ending case study) – they understand it. Then again, they’re one of the relatively few companies, for the masses, that understand that (and act like it) a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. After the return of Jobs, and the last try (focusing on the iMac only) I think this has become really clear to them. Product quality, package, design, augmented product, marketing and services – it’s all product in the minds of the consumers and my God they understand it. And my God it works. That’s how you get and maintain a price premium, a loyal fan base and people who tattoo the brand logo on themselves

asymmetrical competition

Umair Haque has written about asymmetrical competiton on his blog, a very interesting phenomenon partly driven by the internet and the result being that strengths aren’t perhaps strengths anymore. Read for your self. This video is a good example of this. I mean it hooks me, even though I’m an Obama fan anyway. But what if I was pending? It’s not like everybody check sources very well, and a lot in the clip below could just be fake. But imagine what it can do. Brands live in an asymmetrical world, politicians too. Challenger brands might still be challenger brands – but they have the opportunity (theoreticaly) to reach out to wide masses and distort the media dollar strength that used to be a great one.