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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's time to take a stand

This morning I came across this article from The Drum, Is Advertising Finally Ready to Shake Off Its Last Taboos? It's got a great example using the recent Maltesers campaign from the UK as a way to break through the stereotypes that advertising often showcases and instead bringing reality and an authentic approach focusing on inclusion and equality.
It’s about time brands and mainstream marketing followed in Maltesers’ steps and started embracing subjects that have historically been taboo for fear of causing offence. Through embracing taboos we initiate a move towards a society where inclusivity and equality are truly mainstream rather than just for debate. The world at large might be oscillating from outright discrimination (take Trump’s comments on women and people of colour, right through to immigration being a key reason for our own Brexit vote) to healthy debate on diversity (gender equality and such). But advertisers have by and large been guilty of sitting on the sidelines in a bid to avoid offence and alienation.

The result? A safer, vanilla, kind of advertising that risks connecting with no one.

And that last bit about advertising that doesn't connect with anyone by trying to appeal to everyone is key. I hesitate to call it vanilla because, that's saying vanilla is bland and it doesn't have to be. BUT, the point being, you really cannot please everyone. And, that's OK.

I'm currently focused on creative for social media and I have been working to educate how in this space (but elsewhere as well), you need to connect with people based on what drives them. And, this is nothing new. As advertisers or marketers, our role is to help people find connection with the brand. And how that brand ties to their daily life, passions, and aspirations helps to drive that.

And it's great for a brand to take a stand. But it also has to be authentic.

It’s this sort of creative bravery that offers rich opportunity for brands: taking part in everyday conversations, however challenging, and doing so with relevance (and maybe a little well-placed irreverence) is clearly aligned to business success (as Mars is no doubt hoping to prove with Maltesers).

However, while brands should challenge themselves to take risks they must also be authentic. No token campaigns here please – consumers will see right through you. Authenticity is all when it comes to such personal engagement, and it’s no surprise that Maltesers had the help of disability charity Scope for guidance and a hands-on role in the creative process.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

On Project Management

No matter how great a creative team you've got, or how receptive your clients are to brilliant ideas, there's one very important piece to running a good creative department. That, dear readers, is organization.

Without it, you cannot meet client expectations. Delivering work late, unfinished or half baked due to rushing, being overloaded or understaffed doesn't result in good results or good feelings.

There are a few elements key to achieve great organization.


A solid creative brief can help set the stage for understanding the overall scope of work. What kind of project does the budget allow for it to be? How long does the project of this kind take to execute? These questions begin to frame staffing needs and help with overall project needs.

But the brief should also be abel to answer questions such as, Who are you talking to? What are their challenges? What is the key message? What are the key benefits? Getting answers to these questions that will frame the creative process help the creative come faster and be more on pointe from the start. You end up with less need for iteration because you'll be closer to an answer that's on pointe.

Project Managers

I've often said that a good project manager (or traffic manager) is worth their weight in gold and then some. Someone who can wrap their head around deadlines and the intricacies of different disciplines helps keep the team on track.

Project Management Systems

No matter how amazing the project manager, having a great project management system is also critical. Tracking projects, organizing information, deadlines, and much more in one place so that everyone is held accountable for their deliverables.

To-do lists & Status Meetings

Getting the team together for a status meeting weekly (or more frequently, depending on the project) helps everyone align on needs, dependencies, and work loads. It also helps to keep ownership and roles and responsibilities clear for everyone involved. Each team member should be well aware of their own to-do lists--whether that comes from the project management system, their project manager, or out of their own head.

Having certain elements organized, allows for unorganized thinking. It frees up time to put toward finding the most creative solutions to a problem posed by a brief. It Reduces the amount of stress and helps create an environment of trust and professionalism.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Great creative never starts with a blank page

Most people probably think that as ad creatives, we start with a blank page.

I would argue that in advertising that is rarely the case. And usually when it is, it means something is dreadfully wrong.

Starting point

Strategy is already shaping the page before we even touch it. And, that's as it should be. The all too crucial brief starts to put the structure together that defines a starting point, and the end point.

What is the problem we're solving? What obstacles might we face? What key insight(s) do we have about the problem or people we are trying to reach? What message are we trying to communicate? What is the reason to believe the message? How will we measure success/What is the end goal? What is the opportunity?

And the best will also include the audiences' fears, dreams, etc with pyschographics, as well as data on the competition for even more context.

This strategic foundation is the basis of great creative work, most importantly the key insight(s) which is the meaty goodness creatives love to sink their teeth into as they brainstorm.

Get inside the box

The all too overused phrase "think outside the box" when applied to advertising or marketing should really be "think inside the box". If there are budget constrains, specific requirements, or other elements that will ultimately constrain the "blue sky thinking" that most often happens in brainstorm sessions, it doesn't matter how great the idea is if the client can't pay for it. Sure, I've had plenty of projects where I've been able to sell in more expensive ideas--but it's not the norm. The solutions you can create that don't cost millions have to work harder and be smarter. Sure you can throw dollars at something and that alone might be enough. But, it's thinking within the parameters and constraints that is the challenge of developing great ideas that break through. It's also how we bring value to what we create; what makes our job skilled and not something just anyone can do.

Bring on the ideas

Great ideas play off archetypes that resonate with people. That help them see how a product or service solves a problem or helps achieve a goal. These ideas sometimes bring unrelated thoughts together in new ways that capture attention and drive engagement. Other times the ideas bring together new technologies and evolving social behavior in new ways.

Ideation or concepting might begin with doodles, random notes, and even research. Brainstorming brings some of these ideas together in ways not thought of before because different thinkers are combining their thought processes. It's one reason why team work is often better than the work of a single creative. Working in a vacuum, there is no outside voice to bounce things off or to build upon the idea with a different perspective. These additional idea builds can come from anywhere and from anyone.

The tricky part is to know what are good builds and what are bad builds--to keep the original idea from becoming too muddied--to keep it on strategy. All too often you see an ad where you wonder how it came to be. There's a gleam of something amazing there, but it's been stripped down or covered up with other things that it's a shadow of what it once was. Often that means it's a victim of "design by committee" or "too many chefs in the kitchen" issues.

Ideas that win

Put yourself in the audience's shoes. Sure, you might not be the target, but what are the kinds of things that resonate with you? What do you like to see? What ads have you loved? We are all human--we all have similar desires and fears. We want people to like us. We are afraid of being alone. We want to have it all. We want to be happy. There are many ways to skin these basic human emotions. The best ideas play into these in ways that are relevant to the audience you're trying to reach. It's why good creatives are curious. They want to understand what makes the people they are talking to tick. Because that's key to making ideas that win.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Content is a four letter word

The renowned Dave Trott wrote a piece for CampaignLive that hits on the emptiness of the word "content".
The content is now just something to fill up the space; the delivery systems are what’s important, not the content.
And that’s the massive shift that has happened in our business.
"Content" may only be a word, but it signifies a total shift in emphasis.
Previously, the most important thing was to solve a business problem.
Then to work out what contribution marketing could make to that.
Then have advertising deliver that solution in the most impactful way.
That was the big idea that would change behaviour.
The delivery system facilitated getting the idea in front of the right people.
But the important thing was the idea.
To put it simply: it was idea first, delivery system second.
But by relegating the idea to content, it becomes far less important.
The delivery system must now come before the idea, before the "content".
So changing the word signifies the complete change in the business.
In case I was wrong, I looked up "content" in the dictionary.
"Content (noun): everything that is inside a container; the contents of a box."
So there it is: we’re in the shipping business.

This article from Harvard Business Review calls content "crap".

We never call anything that’s good “content.” Nobody walks out of a movie they loved and says, “Wow! What great content!” Nobody listens to “content” on their way to work in the morning. Do you think anybody ever called Ernest Hemingway a “content creator”? If they did, I bet he would punch ‘em in the nose.

Yet while content — a commodity to be acquired, distributed, and leveraged — remains a fiction in the minds of business planners, digital technology has given marketers enormous opportunities to publish and produce. To take advantage of those opportunities, marketers need to shift their mental models and think more like publishers.

I had interviewed for a Content Strategy position in the last year and it started with the question asking how I defined content. I would say that content is EVERYTHING you put out there as a brand. EVERYTHING. That means paid AND unpaid (or paid, earned, and owned if you'd rather). You can turn things your customers are sharing online into content too.

We are sloppy with our language describing marketing and advertising terms. We are verbose when its not needed to make things obfuscated. And so we end up with words that have little meaning and devalue the things we create. Shame on us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Some Branded Mobile Apps Limit Engagement

This afternoon as I was making my way through my inbox, I came across a story in Media Post's Out to Launch email that struck me as something worth thinking about.

Here's a screenshot from the email:

For a long time I have worked on campaigns where "doing something mobile" is requested. Why does "doing something mobile" equate to creating a branded mobile app that has to be downloaded from an app store? Yes, app usage has soared. But if you look at the data, it's very specific app use. Comscore's US Mobile App Report from 2014 showed that total mobile app usage has surged 52 percent since 2013. Other interesting stats from the report include the facts that "the total number of app downloads is highly concentrated within a small segment of the smartphone population. The top 7 percent of owners account for nearly half of all app download activity in a given month. A staggering 42 percent of all app time spent on smartphones occurs on the individual’s single most used app. Nearly three out of every four minutes of app usage occurs on one of the individual’s top four apps." And as this Forrester article "Your Customers Will Not Download Your App states, "Most apps simply aren't compelling or convenient enough to outweigh the inhibitors of discovering, downloading, installing, and customizing them."

The idea of the campaign is fun. But making it an app to be downloaded from an app store automatically limits the number of people who will engage with it. Would the people who created it or signed off on it download it if they were the target. Doubtful. So why should Oscar Mayer's customers do it?

Unless your mobile app provides utility tied to your brand (like if you're a bank and you have a mobile banking app or your app is tied to payment and loyalty, like Starbucks), you won't see swarms of customers rushing to download your app. Just because mobile activity is up, doesn't mean that it requires an app to connect with the customer.

Mobile experiences can happen via web pages which will increase your viewability (and shareability) and if you build the experience to be responsive, well then you've just increased it even further. Building apps in silos like this is one of the many ways money is wasted on an idea that could have lived in a more dynamic environment that lead to greater sharing (or viral) potential. It's unfortunate.

Friday, July 31, 2015

8 ways I keep up with ad news

Some times people wonder where I get my links and news from. And for a long time, I liked to keep it under wraps, but today I decided to share some of my sources with you.

1) Flipboard:
I follow a lot of different magazines here and aggregate my favorite or noteworthy stores into my own. Currently I have 5, which seems to work well enough. That might change in time.
See my profile here to follow any of my magazines.

2) OpenStrategy:
A great resource about strategy and thinking which also sends emails (Yup I get these too). You can sign up here for the emails.

Largest Super Bowl archive and the latest ad news from around the world in one place.

4) Feedly
With the death of Google Reader, I moved to Feedly. I keep track of many sites there, although there is overlap with this and flipboard, which I just find more user friendly.

Daily emails feature 5 curated links from a list that get voted up or down on their site (see here). Some great articles and featured work. Mostly focused on digital design & UX, although sometimes there are bigger branding themes as well.
Sign up here.

6) Fraggl
Fraggl is a "daily email of the 10 must read links on selected topics, brought to you by a surprising combination of smart computers and interesting people". Currently advertising, design, and health are available.
Sign up here.

7) Strands of Genius
Strands of Genius is a weekly newsletter curated by Rosie & Faris Yakob. Each week they "find the awesomeness on the internet so that you don’t have to."
Sign up here.

8) Mediapost emails
There are loads of topics you can sign up to receive alerts or aggregated emails. Around the Net in Brand Marketing, Research Brief, SocialMediaMktg Daily, and Accounts on the Move are just a couple I receive. More here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Who drives your brand personality matters.

Can brands ever really separate their personality from those at the driver's seat?

Virgin (and all it's brand splinters) all fall to a personality that embodies its founder. Richard Branson has a joie de vivre and that carries through the brands. The goal is to attract like customers and reach out to those people who do as well. It's all integrated. But, it also works for the brand and what it stands for.

Other brands, like Coca-Cola, have a personality that has been developed over time and I'm sure somewhat existed prior to the current CEO and other stakeholders. They understand that the brand isn't them, it is its own thing.

When working on branding projects, it's often hard for stakeholders, or the ultimate stakeholder, to not put their own spin on how they feel the brand should be positioned, for right or wrong. You see it when people are reviewing creative work all the time when they don't like something because personally they don't like it, not because it's not right for the brand or piece of communication.

Great brand leadership in a company is able to separate themselves from the work and will understand that the brand needs to connect with the target audience. It's not about what they want, it's about what works best for the brand and who they are trying to reach.

Until more executives and board members understand this, we will continue to see a proliferation of brands that struggle to identify who they are, how to connect with their customers and in the end, be successful. It's those who stay true to their inception and are brands developed with a purpose and belief that will be able to win out.
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