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…

att hitta rätt problemen och att få lösa det

Nyligen diskuterade några gamla kollegor och jag kring detta med konsulters möjlighet, eller omöjlighet att lösa de riktiga problemen efter att ha involverats utifrån en specifik disciplin. Alltså reklambyråer är reklambyråer och löser reklamproblem även om reklamproblemet egentligen är ett annat. Visst finns dessa, men det är inte överdrivet många. Att identifiera ett problem och resonera kring hur lösningen kan se ut, vilket när man nyktert ser på saken ofta är ett par scenarios, inte ofta kan måla upp helt “disciplinfria” scenarios.

Ett tydligt exempel kommer upp. Kundtjänst kostar för mycket och detta måste åtgärdas. Ärendena handlar övervägande om fakturaproblem och missuppfattningar. Problem: fakturan och inte kundtjänst. Lös problemet med otydlig faktura.

Osv.

Kommer att tänka på detta nu när frågan om presstödet är på tapeten.

När presstödet en gång inrättades var problembeskrivningen klar: förstatidningarna var på väg att slå ut andratidningarna…
Nu är det även förstatidningens ställning som är satt under hot, när annonsintäkter försvinner och den digitala omställningen är svår att hantera.

– Cilla Benkö, DN.

Det handlade inte om andratidningen just, utan vad den representerade: en levande journalistik med flera perspektiv. Motsatsen till enkelriktad och ensidig. Varför? För det är en förutsättning för en välfungerande demokrati. Den utsatta andra tidningen var symtomatiskt för problemet. Självklart då, men mindre självklart nu (nu är det mer komplext), men samma grundläggande utmaning består.

Konkreta förslag saknas inte. Det handlar till exempel om att genomföra det av riksdagen beslutade avskaffandet av den orättvisa reklamskatten, samt att momssatsen för digital journalistik inte ska vara högre än för journalistik på papper.

– Cilla Benkö, DN.

Det viktigaste och bästa man kan göra när man letar lösningar, är att återgå till problemet och försäkra sig om att man inte utgår ifrån symtom, utan den faktiska kärnan i problemet. Men hur väl är du positionerad att överhuvud taget få gehör för detta? Ja, har du rullat med vad kunden hela tiden ber om, oavsett om det förefaller rätt eller fel, blir det svårt. Är du för djävla omedgörligt får du aldrig behålla uppdraget. Blandar du bara in människor ifrån ditt skrå, din disciplin, ja då är det svårt att få gehör för annat resonemang.

Vill du lösa de verkliga problemen, bevisa det genom att inte alltid komma dragades med samma gamla problemlösare. Agera tvärdisciplinärt, perspektivskiftande och i mångt och mycket explorativt. Knyt till dig organisationskonsulter. Etc.

Garanterat nya uppfattningar om vad problemet är.

Micco har (självklart) skrivit ett bra inlägg om detta med att ringa in det faktiska problemet. Det jag tänker mycket på, är metoder för att bli personen/organisationen som gärna får göra det.

Har någon tänkt mycket på detta? Droppa en kommentar eller ett mail, why don’t you.

diversity, collaboration and process – how will it work for you

LEGO - figures of sorts
from Lego mini-figures tumblr

Lot’s going on in the creative industries with regards to how we/it works. Reflecting over what’s been taken for granted, what’s been simple for a client to buy (the unfortunate dominance of project over process). How might we make it work better?

A few good reads on the subject:
collaborative innovation, by Saher Sidhom, running and exploring things at Forge, at AMV/BBDO London, from planner.se

A series in Fast Co.Design on ideation, team collaboration, methods and prototyping at Google Ventures. Always sexy to peak inside of that place.
P1. Conducting your own Google Venture design sprint
P2. 6 ingredients to run a design sprint
P3. Building team understanding
P4. 8 steps to creating story boards
P5. Deciding what ideas to prototype
P6. Lightning fast digital prototype
P7. Testing ideas with rapid-fire user study
By Jake Knapp, designer and product development expert at Google Ventures

This thinking about better processes, methods and skill-sets in order to create better ideas, whatever creative industry you’re in, differ. But the common reason for it is about new technologies, speed, transparency, connectivity and a better general understanding of how creativity works.

To me, personally having worked with strategy and ideation in brand communications (indexing quite high), application development and utility/service design, there are a few things that are so very general that it’s pretty obvious that all creative industries will benefit from looking into it. And doing that is so very easy.

Diversity – something many, probably an absolute majority, are crap at. More perspectives will generate more interesting perspectives and reflections. Why is it not a rule to involve outside brains? Easily fixed. Who doesn’t want to get to know more interesting people?

Plan for iteration – things don’t end up the way you want just when you want it. Fact. In a client relationship, a bit tricky to just change, I know, but it can be done. Go from preparing a client to see/hear what solution we have, to preparing them to meet 4 times expected to input on a load of possible solutions. Takes more time, perhaps. Yields better end result, most likely. Demands another remuneration model for many – so fix it. Demands new processes for ideation – shitloads are out there to use. Will mean you see less of some individuals cracking THE solution – yes, those people will be dangerous in more collaborative processes.

Lose the ego – probably the hardest part, see dangerous people in previously (and present) individualist focused industries. Rethink incentives and goals from individual to group. There are professionals that know shitloads about that subject, how to foster collectivistic energy, pride etc. If you haven’t talked to one, you haven’t even taken the first step in even trying.

You could go on of course. But these 3 are sooo very general that there’s not even a question of doing it or not. It’s ridiculous. As they say; “Just do it”.

brands – coming alive to the world!

There were a couple of things shared last week that just made a full circle, like a triangulation that zeroed in on an often discussed matter in advertising (and brand management). That of brands being a bit like humans. Or not. Having POVs on issues, showing humor or not, being in the know and so on. Complex like humans. But let’s not get too deep into that.

Absolute Vodka

Absolute Vodka, with their artistic heritage, doing their view on what’s available to us all; more possibilities than ever to communicate and express our individuality. Less and less must conform to furmulas, more styles are in-style at the same time than ever before. You are never more than a couple of keystrokes or swipes away from your “cultural peer groups” wherever they may be in the world. Individuality and uniqueness for everyone.

Campbell Soup

Campbell Soup
image source

At first, Campbell opposed the Warhol artwork but thought again. Today, they’re recognizing that the Warhol artwork evokes so much more than a can of soup and welcome being part of pop art history by working with the Warhol Foundation to celebrate the 50 year anniversary. One can only hope they build on that and keep going beyond that, seen as it’s basically a boring ol’ can.

Oreo Cookies

Oreo Mars Rover Ad
image source

Brilliant ads with this little cookie as canvas.

“Oreo turns out to be really respiratory. When it celebrates Elvis, the Mars landings, or Bastille Day, it comes alive to the world around it. Playful, even. After all, who celebrates French holidays? And the brand has recently taken on the image of the Liberty Bell, the Dark Knight, and the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower.”

– Grant McCracken in HBR

“It comes alive to the world”, what a fitting way to express it. Brands who look outside their immediate self, recognising and tapping into the world around us.

As there is usually a long time-lag between an advertising exposure and the actual act of purchase, effective advertising requires long-term memory (Ehrenberg et al. 1997, p.9). This associations in long-term memory are built on the one hand by repetition and on the other hand through all kinds of other brand exposures, such as WOM, brand usage, POS or even recalling memories. Once associations are stored in the long-term memory, they are hardly ever completely forgotten. As people build highly individualized memory-structures, “[p]ublicizing a brand is [.] about what consumers do with the advertising rather than what advertisements do to consumers […]” (Ehrenberg et al. 1997, p.10). So with long-term memory in mind, advertising’s task is then to find creative ways to publicise the brand, refresh and build new memory traces and “to make the brand distinctive rather than differentiated” (Sharp 2010a, p.353).

http://sophisticated.at/blogs/thomas/2012/09/3-2-1-3-advertising-as-creative-publicity/

Brands can act a bit human in more ways then ever before given social norms soaking the very fabric of most media technologies and platforms for communications. But brands are moved forward by organizations, and those organizations aren’t exactly littered with individuals who understand that we tend to buy more easily from brands who occupy a larger share of our memory. And that those memory structures do not have to be internally worshipped facts about exactly why to buy, and instead be thrilled that “…this ‘mere publicity’ perspective might actually be liberating for creatives, as advertising then becomes “making distinctive and memorable publicity for the brand out of next to nothing” (Ehrenberg quote from Thoma’s thesis).

the role of journalism and reader participation

There’s an important discussion going on here in Sweden at the moment, about online newspapers and the possibility to comment on articles, and wether or not it’s working. Some leading newspapers think it’s not at the moment. Leading representatives are heavily engaged in this discussion, that reached some sort of climax (and resulted in shut-downs or changes to the commenting functionality) due to extremely racist comments, but not solely because of that, during the tragic incident in Norway.

They are, quite rightly, looking at this from a technical, resource and reader involvement perspective. Recently a media industry expert (Sofia Mirjamsdotter, Resumé) said it’s no surprise that this happened (closing down, limiting and/or changing privacy policies) as none of the newspapers had a participation/comment strategy. That’s looking at things from a very narrow perspective given the massive impact of (possible) reader involvement in online journalism. You don’t have a strategy for comments, you have a strategy for online news publishing, if at all that’s what you choose to call what you do.

Anna Hjalmarsson of Aftonbladet hopes that in five years, they’ll have found better ways of handling discussions where readers openly, and respectfully, meet each other and newspaper representatives. She also says that many active commenters express themselves as if nobody from Aftonbladet is going to read what they write, as if the discussions in the comment fields is something for the readers only.

Now that’s spot on, and it’s most likely contributed to a negative language and a tone. If an official representative (i.e. article author) revisits and responds, well, we’d probably have a more nuanced discussion. Maybe even a professional one. A comment function has less to do with the possibility to make yourself heard, and more to do with getting a response, a reaction. We talk to/with people. If the response is from somebody calling you an idiot, wishing you dead. Well.

Björn Hedensjö of DN.se says they’re genuinely interested in reader involvement, but at the same time they have limited resources. He says that the editors must make an active selection when it comes to which subjects should be discussed and then also engage in that following discussion. That’s a very good start. Selecting what articles and pieces are most relevant and likely to inspire, and facilitate, discussion. And because selecting is already a key aspect of journalism, it’s a natural extension of that. What is news worthy and what’s not, is a constant question. Why shouldn’t what is talk worthy? Often they overlap, but far from always. They are different and have different selection criteria. Especially considering the resource issue.

So considering this, I think we arrive where the real challenge sits. The key question with regards to journalism in general today, is the role it plays in society. Media (organisations), traditionally defined by the properties of the specific media (TV was always very different from radio, technically speaking), the organizational structure (ownership and possibly political associations) and funding/financing (licence and/or ad financed).

Media has always been institutions in society. They’ve always helped shape culture in the broadest and biggest sense. But newspaper journalism has mostly been about them writing and telling us about things. It’s been about sender-receiver. It’s been like that because of the technical context when it started, and when it was defined, explicitly or not. The technical properties of media used, did that. It’s all a product based on what was even possible. Now that’s changed. When an article starts and stops is changed. Finite has become infinite. What news story telling is (can be), has changed. So really what needs to happen, which is the reason it’s not about a strategy for comments, but rather a strategy, and definition, of online news journalism, is rethinking the sole purpose and role of online journalism. Which, of course means, the role of journalism in general. In this case mostly, but not exclusively, from a written word point of view. I really hope the question is answered on this level, and not mostly on a technical level, as many comments seem to suggest.

social media the organisational change agent


Photo thanks to riklomas

I came across two new reports on how connectedness, new touchpoints and feedback loops are affecting organisations, the marketing function and “where it sits”, and also increased customer centricity. They sum up the greater context, and the combined reasons, for some of the organisational changes (or needs for) that need to happen. One report from McKinsey (We Are All Marketers Now) and one from Forrester commissioned by Dell (Social Listening).

Forrester found that organizations across various industries that have implemented listening and digital engagement initiatives are starting to see impressive business returns.
– Forrester

You often hear negative voices on showing ROI from social media within marketing and it’s a fair point because getting measurements right isn’t that easy and, obviously, neither is actually generating a positive ROI. But a positive ROI should be delivered through social media implemented into, and used by, the whole organisation and not just marketing, which changes the ROI conversation, the investments and the over-all value it brings. You might even argue that it redefines marketing, which is what McKinsey are arguing.

In the era of engagement, marketing is the company… In essence, companies need to become marketing vehicles, and the marketing organization itself needs to become the customer-engagement engine…
– McKinsey

In today’s marketing environment, companies will be better off if they stop viewing customer engagement as a series of discrete interactions and instead think about it as customers do: a set of related interactions that, added together, make up the customer experience.
– McKinsey

Which means there’s an increased need for designed and coherent interactions that stem from a better agreed understanding of who the brand is and its meaning in people’s lives. If it’s too much for one person to be responsible for customer engagement, then companies (realistically larger size ones) might consider having one for every function within the organisation, who can then liaise with each other in order to cross the boundaries that exist between sales, marketing, customer service etc.

The marketing organisations new look, 4 key dimensions identified by McKinsey

Distribute more activities
If marketing is the company, the distribution of marketing activities changes.

More councils and partnerships
As distribution of activities change, new needs for synchronization and collaboration cross-boundaries emerge.

Elevate the role of customer insights
With more and better feedback loops and data waiting to be tapped – all aspects of the company can and must benefit.

More data rich and analytically intense
Apparently Zynga generates and captures five terabytes of customer data every day. Wow!

Helping companies understand and benefit from social media is enough to realise that we’re looking at some major organisational issues. It’s all organisational, and organisations are tricky. It’s complex and it’s slow. It means shifting incentives, responsibilities and accountabilities. Many companies are going to have huge problems for a long time, and some companies offering organisational change management are going to get rich…

Social media is helping bring companies closer together internally, and perhaps it’s even the strongest catalyst for better cooperation, cross-department co-operation and incentivising for over-all collaboration. Quite an important roll.