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.

bigger strategies and smaller ideas

A lot that was said yesterday, at Patrick Collister’s presentation, really tilted towards smaller ideas but more frequent. I agree. I feel that strategies, however, need to be bigger. Grander. Big – how – I ask myself. Well not bigger as in more rigid, stiff, carved in stone, but more flexible and perhaps even less controlled in a way. Flexible in a way that allows more stuff to happen. More unplanned stuff. Quick. In order for smaller ideas to be “OK” – I think a big strategy that leads to objectives not through planned trails, as they most likely change quicker than they can be trodden, but rather flexible, adjustable strategies. A brand’s vision, belief and personality must be the primary influencer of a brand strategy.

I see a parallel to warm, smart and genuinelly good people. They are big people with big hearts and big brains, and they’re not affraid or insecure as to not change their mind and ways. Small people we all know, and they’re not easy to work with and most likely not very fun to be with and have a conversation with.

everything is relative to culture and context

dollars

Maybe you’re familiar with linguistic relativity, or maybe not. Anyways, it’s about how language actually affects and even limits our way of thinking, our cognition. Plato said the opposite, that no matter what language you spoke, thoughts were not affected. The Whorf-Sapir hypothesis talks more about this if anyone’s interesting (even though wikipedia says it’s Sapir-Whorf, not Whorf-Sapir).

Yesterday I read an article about Zimbabwe and how Tsvangirai and Mugabe are hooking up again to try and find a way out of the mess. Good luck. Apparently Zimbabwe has a 2.2 million percent inflation!! Goddamn!

How does that relate to linguistic relativism? Not at all, but to the concept of context/culture affecting our thoughts and perception of everything. If you’re from a country with 2.2 million percent inflation – how does that affect your view on percentage? Or value of money? When someone tells me something went up or down 100%, generally that’s a lot. Would a Zimbabwian get the same first reaction? I doubt it. 2.2 million percent – come on! The central bank just printed a new hundred billion bill. It would say 100 000 000 000 on that, rather large, piece of paper. The paper industry is doing well I presume…

intercultural communications and planning

After flipping through an old book on intercultural communication from the times back in school, it struck me that all communications models therein is more relevant and applicable than any other models (of course the element “clutter” does include “cultural differences” in those models too). Not that any old model is applicable at all.

And the way the world looks today, planners on national level have to take intercultural communications issues more seriously in their work. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I believe it’s a fair assessment. The only thing all cultures share, is the fact that they’re ethnocentric. I’ve heard. And studying intercultural communications, or anthropology, pretty much proves this right (often in an painfully obvious manner).

It’s worth a think.

On that note. Westerners, including me who’s a blond, blue-eyed Swede, are per definition a low context culture. We communicate in a clear, “no bullshit” way. High context cultures leave much more unsaid (verbally) and trust the context and the knowledge about the one you’re communicating with to fill in the gaps. Funnily enough – that’s the type of advertising we like so much in low context cultures. Like: “don’t treat them (advertising victims) like idiots – let them co-create the meaning”.

Funny that. I’m pretty sure it’s to do with being more interesting that way. Less obvious. And again it hits you; why the hell is so much advertising over obvious, to the point of you feeling like you’re treated like an idiot?

That’s a whole other matter.