Sunday, August 26, 2018

Do You Know If Your Creative Sucks? Here's Why You Should Care

More often than not, the quality of creativity is seen as subjective. Personal preferences of colors and font are one thing. You then have all kinds of personal perspectives that get layered on as well based on the reviewer's frame of reference. It also can reveal a surprising amount about the reviewer (but that’s another post).

I've recently been introduced to some constructs (thanks Sweathead group)that help to set up an objective way to just the quality of creative; I find it fascinating and surprising that the industry as a whole has not yet adopted this (or something similar) as a universal measure. Because, quite frankly, if you're doing things that are ranked at 1-3, why even bother?

A piece from Fast Company highlighted why Heineken was named Cannes Marketer of Year:
"In an attempt to scale best behavior across the company and ensure everyone adopts the same language and uses similar criteria to define what great creativity is, the company operates a Global Commerce University (GCU). It is a global hub, which provides mandatory training primarily for marketing and sales staffers. Morelli-Verhoog says: “It produces, deploys and embeds capabilities to build stronger brands. One of the fundamental capability streams is creativity.” The “backbone” of this stream is an internal tool known as the “creative ladder.” This is a 10-step ladder going from “destructive” creativity at its base to “legendary” at the top.
Here is Heineken's "creative ladder":

To keep the creative bar set high, Heineken uses "Creative Monday" to keep the marketing team of 1.500 people thinking about how to judge advertising:
Morelli-Verhoog says: ”Every Monday morning at 9 a.m. we send out a not-easy-to-judge piece of creative to the entire marketing community. We’ve done Adidas, Red Bull, Beats, and so on. Then people judge the work in terms of the creative ladder. Sometimes we ask people to explain their thinking because it is not about the voting, it’s about articulating the rationale. It gets super-passionate and then at 10 a.m. we stop. On Tuesday we [the GCU] reveal what we think and explain why a 7 is a 7 or a 6 is a 6. People love it because it is low effort for them, but it formally keeps creativity on the agenda every single week. We don’t let go.”
I love this idea and think it's a shame more brands don't do it. Of course, it would require them to value creativity to invest the time and resources to it.

As more brands bring creative in-house (as is the current trend), it becomes even more critical for them to provide continual support of the creative output from their internal teams——across marketing and advertising disciplines. Great creative requires buy-in throughout the approval chain. It needs everyone involved to support creativity and ideas that challenge the norm.

Similarly, Leo Burnett Worldwide has a Global Product Committee (@TheLBGCP) which meets 4 times a year to internally judge the agency's work on a 1-10 scale. The group upholds the benchmark for the agency’s global network’s creative reputation and is comprised of creative directors, managing directors, planners, and account directors from offices around the world.

Their scale is very similar, which they call “The Humankind Scale”:

This is the core belief of what we call HumanKind. It’s not about advertising or brand propositions or marketing. lt's about people and purpose. lt’s an approach to marketing that serves true human needs, not the other way around.

That's why everything we do for brands is designed with a human purpose in mind. A brand without purpose is one that will never be understood or embraced by people. A brand with purpose can be a true agent of change and transform the way people think, feel or act. A brand with a true Humankind purpose can change the world. Our dream is to be the best creator of those ideas that truly move people - bar none.
The thinking here is that a client isn’t going to partner with the agency if it doesn’t hold these beliefs as well. At least that would be my guess. If that’s the case, this would be something that is presented and outlined in pitch decks, clearly setting the expectation with the client so they’re onboard with the same view to judge creativity.

A great creative idea that never gets made isn’t worth much. It’s one of the reasons why relationship building with clients is so important for creative leads. Often the thought is that that is only the account lead’s job, and it’s true, the majority of it is with them. But, you need to be trusted to sell in highly creative ideas, ideas that are seen as risky, as bold, as new. If your client faith in your team, they are more likely to have faith in your ideas. It’s a matter of showing them you’re not doing something creative for the sake of being creative, but there is a purpose driving each piece of it.

So, with all of these connections, it seems to me that both brands and agencies would benefit from improving their cultures around creativity. And, yes, it also could help to bring back the value of creativity which the industry as a whole has commoditized. Now, I'm not saying that this creative scale is the be-all-end-all, but it would be a great way to start building alignment to the conversation on a topic that is driven by subjectivity. Perhaps it would stop clients from wasting money on campaigns and marketing that gets lost in the crowd or just plain ignored.

(hat tips to @MarkPollard and @Dr_Draper for their inspiration and slide sharing)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When a new tagline kills the feeling

A headline from AutoNews states: Mazda Turns to Emotions with New Ad Campaign. I'm not sure that they weren't already there, though.

About two and a half years ago, my 2004 VW Jetta's transmission went; it was time for a new car. After the whole VW fiasco—and the fact that their designs have become quite boring—I started to look at other makers. I ended up narrowing down my choices to Subaru and Mazda. And I landed on Mazda.

Zoom. Zoom.

In 2000, Mazda launched "Zoom Zoom". It had a catchy song. It had a cute kid whispering “Zoom Zoom”. It connected to a feeling people had about wanting to go fast and live a "zoom zoom" life.

In 2015, Mazda tried to define what "Zoom Zoom" meant with "Driving Matters." (Honestly, I didn't even realize this until researching for this post.) They kept the “Zoom Zoom” tagline, although I would say, what did they want people to remember, because two lines is a lot.
Funnily enough, the AdAge article about this new campaign has a similar headline to the AutoNews headline from last month: Mazda Launches Major Campaign, Puts Emotion Back into ‘Zoom Zoom’. Here’s an excerpt from that article on the why behind “Driving Matters”.

"When we go into a focus group, we do a first opening statement. 'When I say Mazda, what do you think of?'" said Russell Wager, VP-U.S. marketing at Mazda. "Nine times out of 10 they say 'Zoom Zoom,'" he added, banging a table for emphasis. "Then I'll ask them to explain to me what 'Zoom Zoom' means, and I'll get six or seven different answers. That's what Driving Matters is supposed to address. It's supposed to solidify what 'Zoom Zoom' means to people.”

Mazda hopes its advertisements will appeal to a specific type of person, which it calls the "Global Mazda Target." But rather than targeting a demographic, Mazda aims for a "psychographic," of people who love to drive, are well informed and are more interested in collecting experiences than things.

So now, three years later, they unveiled a new campaign with the tagline, “Feel Alive.”

In their press release, they talk about how they want to make them feel something profound.
"Mazda has always engineered to a feeling. We want to build an emotional connection with our fans by making them feel something profound," said Bernacchi. "'Feel Alive' will be a celebration of human challenge, inspiration, exhilaration and potential and there’s no better moment to reveal it than NCAA Championship Monday."
The new brand platform will also pave the way for unexpected partnerships and integrations with innovative companies like Amazon. The relationship is based on a fresh approach to fan communities and leveraging Amazon as a social channel versus an e-commerce tool. Mazda owners on Amazon have given select models five-star reviews.
"Amazon is consumer-focused, data-driven and very well-aligned with our new brand platform," said Bernacchi. "We have a vocal and growing community of Mazda fans and owners on Amazon and we want to support that community with the same energy and attention we give to our other social communities like Facebook and Youtube."
I’m sorry, but "Feel Alive" doesn’t make me feel anything profound. Nothing that tells me to feel a certain way is going to be profound. But, I think the biggest issue with this is that it falls flat. They’ve gone from celebrating the feeling with words that embody that feeling to simply telling someone how to feel.

When I sit in my Mazda, and think about "Feel Alive", I go to places like "Don't Feel Dead", "Not for Zombies", and other things I'd rather not think about while driving with maniacs who cut people off and fundamentally don't believe in using their signals.

From the little bit of research I’ve done, it's obvious that Mazda as a brand wants to be an emotional one. And, it’s a shame that they've walked away from their emotional line that didn't have to tell anyone what to do or how to feel. It just was.

It was a great use of onomatopoeia, perhaps second to "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is." It helps make the idea more interesting and lively. It's emotional in and of itself. It doesn't need to tell people how to feel. It just is the feeling. And, I'm not sure it's a bad thing for people to take away what that means for themselves.

Brands have a fear of letting people put their own interpretation on them. It might be scary, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Let me take away what "Zoom Zoom" means to me without being forced to have a specific meaning tied to it. As long as they are all positive, it shouldn't matter.

Zoom. Zoom.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Do your creative briefs have solid insights?

Insight is defined as (by Merriam-Webster)
1 : the power or act of seeing into a situation : penetration
2 : the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively
Solid creative briefs contain insights. But, sometimes, those insights are less than insightful. But as the sage Bill Bernbach said:
“At the heart of an effective creative philosophy is the belief that nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature, what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action, even though his language so often can camouflage what really motivates him.”

In many cases, planners and strategists are responsible for pulling together the creative brief and digging up the insights. But, that's not always the case. Often, little or no research is done and the brief becomes just a list of demographic data and generic information that does not help the brief.

Avi Dan's piece "The Heart Of Effective Advertising Is A Powerful Insight" might be 5 years old but, it hits on a truth that is still true today (and probably for the rest of time).
"A great creative brief inspires, intrigues and provides the fertile soil from which powerful ideas can sprout. It does so with clarity, conciseness, and with a definite point-of-view. The brief should tell the creative team what it wants them to do, what is expected of them. As the creative brief has the power to spark amazing ideas, and ideas are what advertising is all about, it is essential that the CMO and its team immerse themselves in its creation."
And, a key part of the brief is the insight. It can take a creative team into fertile, inspirational ground that would not otherwise be explored.

As a creative, the insight is one of the first things I look for in a brief. As a creative director, I've worked with strategists and account managers to help make sure that the team has a true insight to work from that can help drive the creativity of the work in interesting directions.

So, What is a good insight?

Let's skip good, and go to straight to great. Great insights provide richness to a strategy and provide a unique perspective into the mindset of the target audience. They help put the creatives in the shoes of the audience they are trying to reach.

Examples of ads developed from insights showcases how a successful marketing campaigns move and inspire by resonating deeply with a brand’s target audience using inspiring consumer insight rooted in complex data. They looked at brand campaigns like Activia: It Starts Inside, Always: Keep Going #LikeAGirl, and Spotify: 2018 Goals.

Giving marketers the tools to create ideas that stick, in-depth data is often where the best campaigns begin. Just one fundamental truth about your consumer can inspire a powerful message that lasts.

"Insights illuminate, but they don't have to be deep", says Andy Davidson, who is Head of UK Practice at the global insight and brand consultancy Flamingo.

"In developing a useful insight, consider human needs", explains Nick Hirst, Head of Planning at creative agency Dare.

In "How to write a Creative Brief that will inspire great creative on your brand" by Beloved Brand, they state: "The smart brief frames the consumer insights with the word “I” that forces you to get into their shoes and put the insight in quotes that forces you to use their voice. These insights add more depth to the story of the consumer so the creative team can build stories that connect with your consumer. The best ads are those where you can almost see the insight shining through the work."

This is what makes a great insight. It's the combination of the:
1) Things we read (Facts & Data)
2) What we see (Observations)
3) What we hear (Consumer Voice)
4) What we sense (Emotional Zones)
5) Life moments (Day in the Life)
These five things come together to create an insight statement that is also counterpoint to the consumer paint point.

According to this piece there are four characteristics of a good insight:
1) the "A-ha!"
An insight differs from an observation in the fact that it is not immediately visible or ‘evident’, but that it only becomes clear when you are actually confronted with it. A strong insight is equal to a sort of ‘Aha’ experience: a combination of surprise and something familiar. It entails a view on something which was implicit all that time. To get to these ‘Aha’ moments, you need a creative and multidiscipline approach.

2) It's Me
The second basic aspect of a strong consumer insight is relevance. A strong insight automatically calls for familiarity, sometimes even to the extent that you may even learn things about yourself that you were not aware of before.

3) Tension
Behind every strong insight lies a need to improve an existing situation. In other words: it’s not just about being relevant; consumers should also feel a need to change something to an existing situation.

4) Insight ≠ idea
An insight is the start of possibly hundreds of ideas. It is a source of inspiration for branding, communication, innovation and customer experience. The easier you manage to come up with different ideas that start off from your insight, the stronger your insight is.

The end result of a great insight, is possibly great creative. It certainly doesn't guarantee it, but it significantly increases the chances that the creative team will craft something that has a strong resonance with the target because of it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Making Banking More Social

At the end of last week I attended the Argyle 2017 Financial Services Forum: Marketing & Technology Innovation conference to talk about making banking more social.

Speaking off the cuff in an interview format, I know there are things I could have discussed but didn’t do to the lack of having notes available.

So I decided I would hit on some of what I talked about, but also touch on things I didn’t talk about.

Banking and finance are typically not leaders when it comes to technology and digital. Often, they leverage that which has worked in other industries first. It makes sense; the risk is lower. And we’re talking about very risk-adverse folks.

Where many other brands are today in terms of social, the banking and finance world (on average) is about 5 years behind but, working to catch up. The thing is, in the digital world, 5 years is a lot. And playing catch up means you'll always be behind. Brands need to start looking at ways they can leapfrog to get ahead.

Social touches all stages of the funnel.

I will start by clarifying, the marketing funnel is not the same as a customer journey. But, if we’re thinking about how we want to create awareness, drive education, and get people to act, we have the ability to do it all in this channel. Social can also be a key component to retention, an oft overlooked, yet powerful component of the overall process.

It requires building bridges across the silos that exist within your organization. Thinking about how each touchpoint creates a full story for your brand as they see different content within their social streams.

Think how can you narrate the story in the way that best suits your business needs, as well as providing value to your customers.

Social leads your online customer service.

Understanding the role social can play in customer service is critical. Customer expect to get their issue resolved through a message on Facebook or a direct message on Twitter.

Enabling your social teams to do so, and actually take action for certain items (like a password reset), can have an incredibly positive impact on your call centers. It can also help to improve the perception of your business by being able to solve things with less back-and-forth and in a more immediate manner.

Social provides key insights through data about your customers.

Leveraging the information about your fans and followers across your social networks can provide key insights to help drive future campaigns, and product development. You can discover what other brands they like (including your competitors) and gain tremendous psychographic learnings to apply to your marketing on and off social media.

Social is emotional.

From showing empathy through customer service to showcasing emotion tied to your brand, social is driven by the heart more than the mind.

It's a place to show you understand your customers; it should be relatable and relevant. And, it's a place for customers to show how they feel about your brand.

Social requires the right mindset.

There's more to social than just putting out a post on your platforms. It is a way of thinking about your business to create and deepen connections through relationships. It's also a way to leverage data that exists and use it in ways that surprise and delight.

Just because you're in the financial industry and there are a lot of barriers with compliance and regulations, there are always opportunities to think creatively about how to use social, whether it is in a program you launch or in the way you use the API data to do something that reduces friction for customers.

Overall, there is a lot more to think about with social and banking but, this is a start. Thankfully, banks have started to look outside their own industry for inspiration as well. Other highly regulated industries like insurance, have made great strides in how they create engaging and meaningful social campaigns that deliver for the business.

Banking can get there, too.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reading Roundup: Week 8/28/17

Here are a few things of interest I've come across and have read in the past week...
Meet the 3 types of people who will launch your culture of growth:
Read the article to learn about The Pioneer, The Champion, and The X-Team.

Google Rolls Out Video Previews for Quick Searches:
Read about changes in the Google app for Android and Chrome on Android. When video results show up in the video carousel, just like text snippets for text results, you’ll see video previews.

5 Tips from Twitter to Boost Campaign Performance with In-Stream Ads:
Read to find out how creative teams can make the most of Twitter’s new ad offering, using research-backed best practices.

Generation Z Speaks Their Minds:
Read why, according research, there are four big cross-cultural themes that drive this generation: Diversity, Digital detox, Justice, and Nationality.

Design Principles: a guide to less shitty feedback:
Read and learn how design principles can help the creative process. "Design Principles are a set of statements that communicate what we want from a project or product. It’s a way for everyone to agree on a couple of core principles that the work should be measured by. By determining these ideas early on, you create a framework that will help you take design decisions and give constructive feedback."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

3 Tips for Retaining Great Creative Talent

Can in-house agencies be as creative as out-of-house agencies?

Earlier this week, The Drum published this interview with AirBnB CMO, Johnathan Mildenhall who is in the middle of a creative review for the brand but "says the management consultancies are not in contention, believing they’re incapable of retaining great creative talent".

Which is interesting, as he seems to think that in-house agencies, and out-of-house agencies in general, are capable of retaining great creative talent.

Overall, I'd say that's a good thing, but in-house (and out-of-house) agencies often have a lot of trouble retaining talent, too. There are a few areas that companies can focus on, in addition to making the right hires in regards to skill sets and with the right "fit" in terms of personalities that will work well together.

Value of Creative:

Many times in-house agencies are creatively strapped compared to their out-of-house counterparts. Innovative projects and "blue sky thinking" tend to go to the outside agency and the in-house folks are left to execute. Creativity is either squashed or just not nourished in the same way as at out-of-house agencies. There needs to be a space where collaboration can happen, where ideas can be pinned up and shared among the team. The technology to create needs to be valued as well, so that teams have the tools to do their jobs. You wouldn't ask an accountant to do their job without something to be able to calculate with--and for creative teams there is an overhead cost for getting people set up with the tech they need.

Creativity also flourishes better when there is a system of trust in place. For employees to know that they are trusted and free to explore their creativity is critical. And nearly as critical is to understand that you've hired an expert who has likely studied their field and should be looked to for advice and know-how, not just as "short order" cooks. Value what they bring to the table is important to keeping them happy (just like any other employee in any department).

Corporate Culture:

Cultivating a creative environment is not a core competency at many corporations. Many times that also stems from the general culture of a company or priorities where Operations, bottom lines, and many other factors tend to get higher priorities. As companies look to bring more work in-house, they need to consider how they will allow creative to flourish in its own pocket within the larger company to achieve greater results. Consider what your agency's environment was like, and then think about what the environment is like for your in-house team. Is it comparable or does it need to be improved with features to help drive better creative thinking?

In some cases, companies have set up in-house agencies as their own entities within the company, which provides some more flexibility and new structures to be more easily set up rather than trying to retrofit existing processes which can be more difficult or not make sense. This can help keep creative from becoming too embedded into the company as well, leaving the ideation free from all the nitty-gritty that folks in marketing will bring to the table (legal/etc) that should not be barriers to the ideation process. Staying at an arms distance allows for the ability to be agile and nimble but without getting too lost in the weeds. The balance can be met in-house, if set up correctly.

Growth Opportunities:

As many bring creative capabilities in-house, it's often done with the idea that in-sourcing is cheaper than out-sourcing. When cost is at the forefront of a decision, one has to also understand that often it results in teams that are understaffed and overloaded with work. I've seen many, many, many job descriptions asking for someone to basically do 2-4 different jobs that one person really shouldn't be doing--at least not anyone who will do any of the jobs well.

People leave jobs because they are constantly overloaded with work or they don't see opportunity for growth, and that their role will never evolve or grow because there is no scale built in to the team they are on. This is also why people leave out-of-house agencies, too. In order to keep people for the long term, you have to show that you're willing to give raises and provide growth opportunities--it's the number one reason most people leave ANY job.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Micro-Moments and Your Brand

Is your brand ready to handle micro-moments?

"Micro-moments have been accelerating consumer expectations for “right here, right now” experiences. People take for granted that information is at their fingertips and tailored to their specific needs. But the thing about human beings is they never stop wanting that little bit extra. It’s becoming evident that they’ll keep raising the bar, wanting more useful information, more personalization, more immediacy. My team wanted to dig into these evolving expectations and understand how consumer behavior has changed since we first introduced micro-moments."
- From Think With Google

Google groups micro-moments into three ways the data takes shape: well-advised, right-here, and right-now. It's possible your brand has something in motion today will suffice for passable mico-moment experiences. But, it's important to review the current customer experience and understand what hurdles you may have to overcome to meet these expectations.


Customer Behavior: People are using their mobile phones to research their purchases, for things as mundane as toothbrushes (yes, even a parity product!). Google's research even shows that searchers are using qualifiers, such as "best toothbrush". This means they're not just seeking out feedback about the item, but they're looking for crowd-sourced solutions in their results.

What to Consider: Check your content marketing and look over what you have currently and consider with the impact this could have for SEO results and rankings. If people care about the best product or service, you want your brand associated with this list, be it from John Doe's blog or Consumer Reports. Another piece to consider is the way you are overseeing customer reviews - take a look at how you are managing it and evaluate if you need to improve your current process. Be sure your teams are bringing forward thinking that helps your customers find more useful information to stay competitive.


Customer Behavior: People expect brands to gather enough contextual information to deliver location-specific responses. They know you have information because other brands (not even your competitors) do. If Yelp can know where I am, why can't my mobile banking app? You know that it's snowing where I am, so make the information you show me relevant to my situation. It's not about a competitive set - customers expect all brands to be able to deliver at the same level as an

What to Consider: Review the data you have accessible and explore interaction points where you can better apply the information to cut out unnecessary or redundant data inputs by customers. With new feature sets and product improvements, you should always put contextual personalization at the top of the list. Brands who use data to help customers find what they're looking for will be the ones to achieve success.


Customer Behavior: Customers are using their mobile devices for immediate needs like last minute purchases (think: forgotten birthday!). Instant gratification is not just wanted in the purchase phase but delivery as well--just look at companies like Instacart and Amazon Prime Now.

What to Consider: Explore your current ecosystem and seek out opportunities to deliver on more instantaneous delivery. Ask your customers for inputs, too. They're a great resource to get suggestions to for improvement and can help highlight the best placement in the user experience for it. Continue to push for immediacy and find new ways to get the sense of instant gratification to your customers.

Do you have other tips or suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thoughts on Digital from WFA's Global Marketer Week 2017

"What we do is the same as it ever was but the way we do it can be so much faster, smarter, better, and cheeper. And that's the promise of digital. But that doesn't mean that we have to be better at digital. what it means is that we have to be brilliant and stay brilliant at our core competencies as marketers, which is you have to be brilliant at marketing but accept that we're doing it in a totally digitized world. And that all the tools and the opportunities we have at our disposal should be leveraged with the same intent we used to use with the traditional things."
- Ivan Pollard, SVP Strategic Marketing, The Cola-Cola Company

Here are some other key comments from Pollard, giving his frank appraisal of the challenges relating to digital media investment at WFA's Global Marketer Week 2017: Back to Life, Back to Reality (but watch it, he is entertaining):
"We're doing our advertising in an ADD world...So we're We're spending way more time consuming way more things in way more places and we're paying less attention to everything we see."

"So maybe time spent is not the appropriate metric to work out how attention effects comprehension."

"We need to generate scale but "been hoodwinked into believing in wastage and in the validity of targeting."

"People who were outside of our desired audience, we were told they were worthless, but they weren't. They were just worth less."

"Weight of advertising works, and Byron Sharp is right about reach. It's also telling us that that quality of content is key and Ogilvy is still right about advertising."

"Not all moments are created equal, especially for those of us selling high volume, low cost goods. What we're looking for are decisive moments."

"We have to maintain the balance between, what is happening in the real world and what is happening in the digital world and pay appropriately for them."
"Reconsidering how we maintain ubiquitous in the real and digital world. Doing this with a fanatical focus on the I in ROI. Starting to challenge the means and models by how we spend our money."
"We're living in a complicated world but the job of marketing is essentially the same."

"We make the remarkable, to make the marketing remarketably smarter."

This is also worth watching:
Our connected audiences have the power to make or break a brand, literally, at their fingertips. While the world has changed, Raja Rajamannar continues to be guided by the insight that experiences matter more than things. Learn more on how Mastercard is striving to exceed the expectations of the connected consumer by shifting from storytelling to storydoing.

"Low price, surprise and delighted, and want to be rewarded. And then there's a feeling of entitlement."

"Because as a consumer when you get rewarded you want to brag about it."
"Some brands used to be so exclusive...but now that kind of mystery has been taken away."

"Consumers want experiences that are truly uninterrupted."

"Consumers don't care about your products. They care about themselves. They care about listening to stories. They want to be entertained. In the process you inform them about your product, ok, that's incidental, but what they're looking for - that's absolutely right. But, today, consumers are telling, 'I don't care about your stories, keep your stories to yourself. I want uninterrupted experience.'"

People are valuing having experiences vs. things at all levels of the economic spectrum.

Connecting with consumers and connecting with the things that they care about - passion points. And this is experiences. If you want to give experiences to your customers, how do you do this. Create and curate experiences that will truly have scale, will have profitability from country to country, and gives us impact we are seeking from our campaigns. Use the "priceless" theme to unite the ideas. This lead to developing things like Priceless Cities where customers can have experiences that money can't buy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What does it mean to be a customer-first company?

What does it mean to be a customer-first company?

Today, it seems like every company claims to be a customer-first company. But really, is that true?

During the past 5-10 years, the brands I've worked with talk about it in meetings, but many rarely followed up with real action. And, as they say, actions speak louder than words.

So, what are some key ways for a brand to bring the concept of customer-first to life?


Being a customer-first company means your products start at the point of solving (or creating) a customer need or desire. That means the brand's products or services are built around the customer, not creating something and then figuring out the customer base for it or backing into a strategy to answer the "why".

Many new companies that leverage technology have done just that. Look at AirBnB, Uber, and Amazon as examples for this. They exist because they figured out a way to solve a problem, not attempting to retrofit a need into their offering. When brands start with their "why", it provides a stronger platform for all other communication strategies to stand on.


Most people say they understand that every touch point someone has with your brand is part of the customer experience. But, for some reason, many companies seem to let certain areas within their business slack off when it comes to putting the customer first.

It's understandable that brands get caught up in their own language and often start speaking to themselves, and that's why outside partners (ad agencies, consultancies, etc) are usually brought in to help provide that outside point of view and convert the internal language into something that makes sense for the audience, in the audience's language.

Another is instances of sales. Yes, of course the company needs to make money and be profitable. But it should not be at the expense of deceiving customers or providing terrible experiences. (Although recent actions by certain companies in the airline industry may prove this wrong.)


Knowing your customer is absolutely critical to being customer-centric. If you can't understand their wants and needs, you'll have a lot of difficulty proving that your brand is there for the customer. You need to understand their mindset, their passions and what makes them tick. You need to survey as many as you can to remove generalizations that come about from small data sample sizes. It's a brilliant company leader that then even takes the next step to spend time with their customers to get a direct line of contact to their voice, which leads me to...


Brands that listen to their customers can make a big impact to their bottom line. Providing channels for customers to give feedback on their experiences gives you an opportunity to improve. It also allows for kudos to be shared with those who are doing things right. Transparency of the feedback loops can also provide a lift in customers' perception of the brand. And if you bring forward a feature or service that was requested by customers, it naturally allows for a proof point to highlight that aspect of the brand in marketing and advertising.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Emotional and Apathetic Brands


It's a key component to many successful brands.

Visceral. Intuitive.

And yet, difficult to quantify.

There are brands which have such passionate fans that they tattoo the logo or other prominent graphic or tagline on their person.

There are brands that have a plethora of digital and IRL fan clubs.

These are brands that trigger chemical reactions in the brain.

They are brands that others want to be like.

But they never will.


Because they are the emotionless brands. The ones that are boring or present but don't stand for much.

They are not bad. They are not good. They just are.

These Apathy Brands deliver on a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern. A state of indifference that holds no one's attention. Even one great ad, is just that for an Apathy Brand. A great piece of creative content and nothing more. A drop in a expansive ocean.

Emotional brands come from a raison d'etre. At their core, they have a meaning greater than profit. Great design. Ultimate user experience. The best customer service. Supporting local growers. A commitment to quality.

No matter what it is, it's something that drives the rest of the business. It's not something tacked on as an afterthought.

It is a central component that drives emotional responses. Emotional creative. And, passionate fans.

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