I’ve written about the evolution and development of Marketing and Communications over time (“Marketing Era’s“, “From-functional-to-aspirational-to-meaningful-economy“). One might argue that such a discussion of trends and cycles is outdated even irrelevant, since the pace of change in society and culture today is so fast, things move on before we can dissect them.
But, I believe it is worthwhile to scope out the landscape we are working in, if for nothing else, just to know its modus operandi. Once we dissect and understand changes in people’s attitude and behavior, we will be better able to respond – to inform policies, product development and even brand conversations. It is also important to understand the impact of these changes and how to navigate and inspire the future. After all, the intelligent brand | corporation | individual is one who can adapt and be ready for the future.
With that in mind, I believe that the current brand / communication cycle is one of conversation | experiences. It is one where stories shine. If we consider the rise of Micro-blogging sites WordPress, tumblr, Wordpad and even Pinterest and Instagram, I believe one thing they have in common is the idea of sharing our ‘stories’ with people. Even when we tweet we are sharing a ‘story’ of sorts.
Thanks to (as a result of) the digital revolution, people have become accustomed to giving more media more of their time. People spend short – sometimes long – chunks of time engaged in watching videos (Vimeo, youtube), reading (slideshare, blogs, facebook and twitter links), playing games (with all the emotions they involve). Only an interesting ‘story’ makes people do that.
If you look at the print ads below (source: Archive magazine vol.3 2012), you will see that they tell interesting stories. They engage people with an introduction, main plot and conclusion of sorts.
The notion of stories in marketing is not new. But what I believe is important is the way we look at stories from a brand viewpoint.
A brand story is not just a manifesto. Everything the brand does is part of its storyline. Unlike in the past, the ‘storyline’ doesn’t need to continue identically through all communication touchpoints. In fact, we can consider all touchpoints and all aspects of the brand as having unique stories with unique sub-plots, characters and settings across all touchpoints. They don’t all need to look or feel or sound identical. As long as they tell the story in total! At different points in time, one may outweigh the other.
So, next time you’re briefing your agency, make sure they understand and have a plan to tell your brand story though various touchpoints. And make sure each touchpoint has its own engaging story. That’s what we do for our brands ☺ It’s what keeps our work fresh, intriguing and interesting.
The laws of physics demonstrate that “For every trend, there is an equal and opposite counter trend” and I am a firm believer in this principle. There never is an absolute truth, rather there are a series of forces that shape our lives and we each choose what suits us – there is no black and white, but a series of grey.
And so it is with the #etisalatchallenge. For years people have been complaining that the Telco “doesn’t listen” “is old fashioned” and “doesn’t reach out to the community” – and then finally when it does, it gets bagged out on social media.
I know there are only 2 Telco’s in the UAE but that is precisely why the #etisalatchallenge is so bold – because rather than rest on their laurels, Etisalat is trying to show the market that they are serious about offering best in market products and services. And if you check out their web site, they do have offers that are first in market and quite useful for some.
What this campaign has done is create a conversation around Etisalat – it invites people to be part of the conversation either through the #etisalatchallenge or via opinions about the campaign – and that’s what every brand wishes for, to start a conversation.
I think rather than critisizing Etisalat’s move, we should be supporting and encouraging this gesture by a prominent and iconic UAE brand. Maybe it could have been done in a more relevant way (somebody should have told the agency how to develop likeable content that gains traction, or how to use brand ambassadors meaningfully, and how to listen to customers on social media platforms and solve their problems) – but it takes guts to challenge people and live up to the challenge. And, taking a Challenger position is not something usually done by an established player.
Brands that want to stay relevant constantly innovate and challenge themselves. And this is exactly what Etisalat has done. And now Etisalat needs to go further by listening and learning from customer feedback. And I challenge other brands in the UAE to be open and transparent about their products and customer service, and to put in place mechanisms that help identify and resolve customer complaints.
Ancient Greece is a complex topic but from what I can summarise about Sparta, it was a wealthy state with a strong education system called the Agoge where elite boys would take part in physical training to mould them into the strongest and most disciplined soldiers. Spartan girls were also brought up to be strong and supportive so they could provide strong babies to continue the Spartan lineage. But Sparta ruled over the Helots – peasants who farmed the land and provided food for their wealthy Spartan overlords. Over time, resentment between the Helots and the ruling Spartans led to a war. Even though the Spartans won the war, this class struggle plagued and weakened them for a long time until eventually they had a war with Athens over the city of Thebes which led to Sparta’s demise.
Similarly, fast forward a few thousand years to modern Greece with huge levels of inequality and impoverishment leading to the election of Syriza on an Economic platform. Greece is saying “we’re going to be playing by our rules now and we will no longer be subjected to EU humiliation and Economic imbalances”.
To me, there’s a few lessons in Authenticity and Equality that my University Professor Yanis Varoufakis – the newly appointed Greek Finance Minister demonstrates.
- We can’t solve problems using established systems and entrenched models of thinking. We must be trailblazers even though it might ruffle some feathers along the way.
- The solutions we design must be based on symbiosis and nurturing a win/win scenario. The current mess that the world is in can be attributed partly to the inequality that many feel at the hands of the few.
If we want to improve our situation – or that of a corporation or brand – we should add real value to society, we should be authentic and we need to be fearless. References: Inequality isn’t inevitable, it’s engineered. That’s how the 1% have taken over. By Suzanne Moore
I think ‘strategy’ is the most over used word in this industry. Too often it is misunderstood, and too often people use it inter-changeably with just ‘a thought’.
Good strategy is creative, just like good creative has to be strategic.
Good strategy is a jump from the mundane. It’s based on an idea. It makes a statement about what the brand is up to. Following from this people either buy into the brand or they don’t.
When you think about campaigns like Avis’s ‘we try harder’, or Honda’s ‘power of dreams’ it is very obvious what the brand is up to, the strategy stands out.
Here are some jump starters for writing good communication strategy:
1. Develop an insight or story, and then summarise it as a strategy.
2. Think ‘what is my creative angle on this problem’ what’s the larger than life proposition to the world?
3. Think ‘what…
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A fun initiative by the Australian Airline Qantas. The initiative encourages travellers to get creative and design their own travel art using the inflight bag in their seat pocket, napkin, or boarding pass, and share it online using the #qantasblankcanvas hashtag.
This talk is interesting not only from a nutrition & health perspective (it might lead to a debunking of some long held beliefs about obesity & diabetes) but because of the scientific thought process behind it which we could learn from. It shows a willingness to challenge the pre-accepted hypothesis and to develop empathy with a situation rather than just passing quick judgement.
It is a demonstration of open minds, courage to throw out yesterday’s hypothesis, and a recognition that scientific truth isn’t final but constantly evolving.
So how can we learn from this for our own industry? For me there are two points:
First, although advertising is not a science but we should try to make it so – for example we search for an insight just like researchers looking for Cholinesterase inhibitors treating Alzheimers. The difference is that we shouldn’t debate, procrastinate and pontificate over it but instead invest in a true process of discovery.
Second, even when we do uncover an amazing insight, the enchantment of great advertising is not actually the insight itself but about taking a straight forward insight and turning it into something amazing.
The point is that ultimately advertising is an entertainment / creative & social industry. Maybe we shouldn’t be over-thinking creativity and searching for a holy grail, and instead just letting go of our inhibitions and enjoying ourselves (just like when we watch something that engages us). Let’s be honest with ourselves – these days whether a campaign for a noble humanitarian cause or the next big Soda campaign, the life span of an idea is a few days / weeks with a # before something else takes its place. So let’s be nimble, let’s be flexible, let’s search for entertaining ideas rather than unequivocal truths because there are very few unequivocal truths in the world, but many points of connection.
I’d like to leave you with this message from Joi Ito. If innovation has been broken down and democratized, then it’s right for advertising to be also broken down and democratised. The future is about not getting bogged down in words and statements and more about quick prototyping, experimenting, learning to trust the team and building on each others ideas. This doesn’t take the responsibility off strategic rigour, but it recognises that advertising just like Science and Innovation is about experimenting, coming up with quick iterations, building and breaking hypothesis and then getting to the point where we can make a creative leap to something fresh yet useful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I interact with a few of my very favorite brands and thinkers on various social media networks. These are brands that kind of hold the same values and world view as myself. I enjoy receiving useful bits of information about various topics from them. What distinguishes these brands from other brands I merely follow is that I like to show them my support – I ‘like’ things they post and I sometimes participate in conversations they initiate by posting comments and answering questions, retweeting, repinning.
But recently I’ve started to question this ‘loyalty’. Because if I’ve taken the time to ‘like’ and comment and interact with a brand, then I believe the least the brand can do is recognise this relationship/support.
I believe that good brands should act like good friends. Is that the way good brands would treat their friends? By ignoring them? Until now social media has been used as an updated form of push marketing rather than a genuine attempt to connect with people (albeit brands push their messages out to people who have opted in to the messages).
Social media is such a great way to connect with people but when not used properly, it just highlights a brands opportunistic and selfish tendancies. Any brand / employee can be given the tools to connect, but very few brands (and employees) really understand how to talk and how to treat people.
Here are my issues:
Why don’t brands link their customers online and offline interactions?
Why don’t brands reward customers who support them online?
Why don’t brands use social media as a form of customer support and customer service?
If I was a brand owner / custodian I’d make sure that I connected the people who most commonly interact with me to some sort of loyalty or ‘appreciation’ program. I would send them a little note “Dear friend, next time you’re *at the cafe / at the mall / shopping for shoes* we’d like to shout you a coffee, because you’re special to us!”.
I think it’s time we built smart database or eCRM programs that connect people’s social media activity to the real world. Databases that value people not numbers, interactions not merely transactions.
That’s how I’d treat my friends and supporters.