content creating, converging, user-generating

When Boris, Ken and Brian met George, Zippy and Bungle

a lovely bit of remix for the London Mayor elections which sees Boris, Ken and Brian meet George, Zippy and Bungle.  brands need to learn to more easily move this quickly, attaching themselves where relevant to current events.  the edit quality on this is superb – check out Zippy’s look of horror when George makes his accusation…  Adland watch and learn…

regulating, user-generating

Williams on Mead: Taking Control of the Underground

Williamsso I saw the above LEP this morning at Leicester Square…

to CBS its vandalism
to some punters its a laugh
to others its just irrelevant
to a strategist its remix
and to the advertiser its an urgent re-post please

but what is it to the person who did it?

an opportunity to make a statement and express their bewilderment and frustration with corporate entertainment that lazily rechurns old ideas because people have stopped expecting to be surprised with new ones?

or a bit of a laugh.  a chance to raise a smile on the faces of the passers-by who get Williams instead of Mead.  to surprise and amuse a tired and commuting-weary audience?

whichever it is, its I suppose about control.  a conventional advertiser losing it and a renegade gaining it.  this of course is nothing new – Innocent launched a decade ago with underground LAP stickering (and it didn’t do them any harm!)…

debate aside.  it made me laugh.

advertising, branding, content creating, IPA|ED:five, user-generating

The Trampling by Brands of User-Generated Creativity; why we have to do better than this

so if once is an incidence, twice is a co-incidence and three times is a theory, then I reckon we have a hypothesis on our hands.  I’ve now noticed three brands of late directly asking users to create adverts for them on the brands terms.

the first and loosest brief came from Ann Summers (above) and their viral academy.  they’re quite direct about it "we don’t retain a creative agency; instead we welcome ideas from talented creative people who contact us directly".  fair enough.  having had content independently submitted, they wanted to make sure it was more formalised.  but the brief remains loose…

"We expect most of the ideas to be for short films – like the ones you can find here  but we don’t want to limit you in any way. If you have a great idea for
a game, a song, a comic – anything at all – we’d love to hear it" [source]

much more recently I’ve come across a couple of examples that don’t show quite the same latitude in their briefs, or what they’re willing to accept.

first came ‘you make it, we play it’ from Doritos.  they’re getting a bit more specific about what they want…  it’s got to be – for example – exactly 29 secs in length.  a bit more specific then…

but any reservations that Doritos might be taking a slight advantage of consumers  was blown out of the water when I saw Armani’s brief at the weekend…

the rules – downloaded from the Armani contest website, stipulate that:

"each creation must comprise:

  • a packshot of the Emporio Armani For Him and For Her
    fragrances: either the packshot found on the Site (which under no circumstance
    may be modified) or a packshot of these fragrances created by the entrant;
  • the two logos found on the Site: Emporio Armani and Get
  • The English signature “Emporio Armani, The two fragrances:
    Get together”,to the exclusion of any other"

I’m not quite sure slave labour is what Larry Lessig had in mind when he talked about a truce in the corporate | consumer creative pact.  and I’m as sure as hell that ordering an army of consumers to use a packshot, logo and tagline as stipulated by Armani when user-generating, wasn’t approaching what Gibson or Jenkins had in mind when they described a future vision of participatory culture and collective intelligence.

brands either embrace the user-generation on their terms, with all the diversity that comes with it.  or once again miss the boat because they applied a brand-centric old model to a consumer-centric new world.  we surely have to do better than this.

engaging, praising, viewing

“The one Cadbury’s didn’t want you to see”, that you really should see

discovered this courtesy of a post by Faris on TIGS.  wasn’t going to post about it but haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  it is so right in so many ways…  positioned as ‘the one Cadbury’s didn’t want you to see’, its a slow-mo version of the suicide cult which formed the climax of this year’s creme egg campaign.

its so totally mesmerising you forget your watching dozens of eggs get smashed to a pulp by their own personal wire on a spring.  and some delightful restraint at the end of the piece ensures that it only hints at it’s marketing origins.  just lovely.

broadcasting, converging, praising, viewing

Build then advertise it, and they will come: how the iPlayer delivers and relies on BBC’s platform-neutral offering

news that the BBC’s iPlayer delivered 42 million downloads in the first quarter of 2008 confirms the success of the BBC’s online offering [source: MediaWeek].  it doesn’t come as a surprise.  the player is simple to use and easy to navigate, and crucially the streaming option allows you to dip into programmes without the drawn-out drama of downloading and saving to your hard-drive.

it marks the most important of what is a range of moves to ensure platform neutrality of the BBC’s offering.  hot on the heels of it’s Virgin Media and iPhone deals comes the news that BBC will be joining forces with Wii to deliver it’s content on Nintendo’s home entertainment system.

the strategy is as spot on as you can get as we approach digital switch off.  Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture introduced us to the notion that it’s not technology (and applications) that’s converging but rather content.  we’re consuming converged content on our terms across a range of platforms to suit our needs.  brands and other advertisers could learn a thing or two.

that said, you can sympathise with the criticisms of commercial broadcasters, especially those beyond page one of the EPG.  the BBC – despite the fallout of it’s current restructuring, has investment to spare in developing the iPlayer – it’s remit to digitise the nation being a keystone of it’s license fee settlement.  they are in an enviable position, being a broadcaster that knows what you have to do is one thing; having the investment to make it happen is quite another.

of course the other benefit of being a big broadcaster is being able to cross-promote your platforms.  the iPlayer is as reliant on the eyeballs delivered by it’s more established parent as the parent is on the 15-34 reach delivered by its new offspring.  and the BBC trumped it again here.  their penguin trailer on April 1st was just class.  enjoy.

CRM-ing, internet, selling

The Double-Edged Sword of Hoxton Hotel’s £1 Room Sale

so I’ve just bagged a room at the Hoxton Hotel  (the £17m establishment opened in 2006 by Pret founder Sinclair Beecham) in their sale…  a quarterly event which this time round offered 500 rooms at £1 and 500 rooms at £29 to the first to book them online from noon today.  the sale lasted 19 minutes.

as expected, online demand at the booking engine was high and much page refreshment was required before I finally got to the booking.  others didn’t make it…  a friend messaging online commented on the frustration being felt (and verbally articulated) around his office.

these frustrations were acknowledged by the Hotel’s General manager David Taylor, who in an online statement after the sale commented:

"The booking engine once again struggled to keep up with the huge
number of people trying to book rooms …  We are sorry if you were not successful, We are sorry of the booking engine stalled on you, We are sorry that not everyone could be a winner"

and that’s the problem with sales like this, the CRM fall-out can be painful.  the website experienced 500,000 hits in the 19 minute duration of the sale, with only 1,000 ‘winners’, that potentially leaves 499,000 disappointed potential customers.  but there’s a flipside…  boy is there a flipside.

using the lowest standard room rate of £59 as a base, the sale cost the Hotel £44,000 worth of income.  but to recoup this income Hoxton has (only) to sell 746 rooms it otherwise wouldn’t have done.  so of the half a million hits they received today, they only have to convert 0.0015% of them to get the money back.  which shouldn’t be too tall an order at all.

but money aside, the sale is delivering across a number of other key metrics.  I’m willing to bet the quarterly spikes in the below Google Trends result for ‘Hoxton Hotel’ is driven by their quarterly sales.Googletrends_hoxton_hotel

added to this increase in website traffic is the surge of new email addresses and mobile phone numbers to their database (I surprised myself at how much personal information I was happy to throw at the website when the clock was against me), and of course the word of mouth effect that this generates…  I found out about the sale from a friend, who found about it from his friend, who in turn found out about it from his girlfriend who was already on the database.

it’s one hell of a sales promotion that can generate this kind of response whilst almost certainly paying for itself…   a double edged sword it may be, but I’m sure it’s one that this Hotel is more than happy to wield.

broadcasting, content creating, internet, viewing

Balancing Individuality and Mass-Culture in the evolution of Content and it’s Consumers

Rocketboom describes itself as a three minute daily videoblog covering everything from top news stories to quirky internet culture.  alongside peers like Diggnation and BoingBoing, it’s one of a breed of short sharp audiovisual pieces made for peanuts and distributed for free via the internet.

in the emerging AV ecology, these elements stand out principally due to the consistency of their presence…  much internet AV content (the vast majority of YouTube‘s real estate for example) is what the Hollywood movie industry would call ‘nonrecurring phenomenon’ – the one off’s and unpredictable quirks that populate the long tail of internet content… everything from a crying Britney fan to the Star Wars kid.  it’s unfiltered, it’s popularity determined by the wisdom of the crowd.

Rocketboom and it’s peers are different.  they’re consistent in both their presence but also their point of view on what and how they aggregate content, and as such become destinations in themselves.  they’re building fan bases; aggregated audiences of subscribers …and it’s in doing so they are creating a new breed of media brand: a interim format between the long-form (TV) show and YouTube’s clip-culture.

it’s an interim format with dilemmas that in many ways mirror those of it’s principal audience of 16-24s.  a recent report by the future foundation’s nVision describes the contradiction in how this group – on the one hand – consumes and relies on mass culture, but on the other craves individualism and self-expression…

"One of the reasons behind this predilection for
mass culture is that young people have less experience when it comes to
consumption choices; they often use mass market products as a short cut to
quick and easy decisions.  They are also strongly driven by the desire to
fit in with their peers and choosing fashionable mass market products can be an
easy way of doing this.


Young consumers are also, conversely (and indeed perversely), keen to be seen
as individuals and consumption is a key way for them to express their
personality … In this context, while mainstream hits will continue to appeal to
young people, they might not always loom as impactfully  they used to do.
Marketing becomes harder, must become more individually focussed as a result."

(source nVision report, March 2008)

the parallels between the Rocketboom format and it’s audiences are startling  …a survey cited in a Guardian article by the recruitment company CareerBuilder
asked employers what
they thought the differences were between workers over and under 30
years old.  the main finding was that younger employees
communicate through technology rather than in person.  the same can be
said of Rocketboom; it’s a format that thrives on the back of the
technology to create and distribute cost-effectively…

both Rocketboom and it’s consumers define their individuality by seeking-out and adopting what’s different before anyone else…  but both – ironically – rely on conformity to mass-cultural rules and the credibility – through shared understanding of meaning – that it brings.  will one inevitably give way to the other?

it’s easy to forget how intertwined content and consumers are…  a generation of digital natives are, by virtue of their media consumption, determining the very nature of the media they consume.  and as this generation grows throughout the population, Rocketboom and it’s present and future peers will find themselves pulled into the mainstream along with them…

branding, content creating, IPA|ED:three, user-generating

This Way Up: Packaging to Grow

Packaging is the touch point that reaches every one of a
client’s existing customers, who are – as Julian Saunders notes – a client’s
most important audience; “The economics of winning a new customer versus
keeping an existing on is generally well known.  A healthy and mature service business should
get most of its business from existing customers”

This post is about how by adopting three behaviours a brand
can best use packaging as a communications channel to drive growth through
existing customers. Furthermore, I’ll
suggest how these three behaviours can be systemised and applied to the
majority of packaged brands in the form of a model for brand growth – packaging
to grow. 

Behaviour I – Adding Value In A World Of Abundance

The principle change over the last decade has been a shift
from media scarcity to media abundance – was the view expressed by Rory
Sutherland at a conference last year [2], something which also applies to
packaging media [3].  At the same time,
behavioural research shows that shoppers are becoming more selective – they
know what items they need and only go down those aisles [4].

In a world of abundance in which consumers know what they
want, brands must fight for the only scarce resource that remains –attention. Adding value through packaging is a key strategy
to get and maintain attention, ensuring consumers keep your brand in their
‘evoked set’ [5].

That’s why each winter bottles of Innocent smoothies wear hand-made
bobble hats. It’s why Abercrombie and
Fitch bags could be mistaken for posters [6], and it’s how the addition of
packaging (as opposed to download only) increased the retail value of
Radiohead’s recent ‘In Rainbows’ album more than nine-fold [7]. Value goes both ways.

Adding value (top down): Innocent Bobble hats, Radiohead’s
‘In Rainbows’ boxed set and A&F posterbags

By adding value, packaging promotes brand growth through
re-conversion, reinforcing the decision to purchase, and increasing future
propensity to repurchase.

Behaviour II – Getting Personal In A Consumer-Made World [8] first identified ‘customer-made’ in
2005. By allowing consumers to
co-create, brands not only tap into the collective intellectual capital of the
crowd, but give their existing consumers personalised reasons to repurchase.

That’s why Jones’s Water has thousands of different customer-designed
labels, and why Pepsi commissioned 35 new designs for its cans [9]. It’s why Heinz let’s you buy a bottle of
ketchup with your name on it, and why the design on Saks Fifth Avenue’s bags is
recombined in an infinite – and therefore unique – number of ways [10].

Personalisation and customisation (top down): Customised
labels courtesy of My Heinz, Jones Soda Co’s labels as co-created with
customers, Pentagram’s Saks Fifth Avenue bag (the original logo is recombined
into unique combinations)

By promoting customisation and personalisation, packaging
promotes brand growth by enticing the consumer back for more of the different;
a unique experience; increasing frequency of purchase.

Behaviour III – Stimulating Conversations In A Networked

“In the old paradigm … mass persuasion involved exposing
millions of consumers to commercial messages … in the new paradigm, the boot is
on the other foot … Target audiences are … a community of interconnected people
within which brand perceptions are shaped by multiple influences”
notes Will
Collin [11]. There exists legislation in
these networks; its Gladwell’s Law of the Few – which describes how
‘Connectors’ behave like social glue, spreading a message [12].

An LSE’s study into brand advocacy proved that the more
advocates a brand has, the higher the brand growth; in general, brands grow
four times faster with positive as opposed to negative word-of-mouth profiles
[13]. So it’s in a brand’s interests to
give its potential advocates – its consumers – reasons to start conversations.

That’s why first BBC2 and now Channel 4 invest buckets in
idents (programme packaging) that gets talked about, and why Nokia created
bespoke packaging that fitted through a letterbox if you told them you didn’t
need a new charger.

TV Packaging (top down): BBC2’s ‘Saw’, Channel 4’s ‘City’ and
‘Corn Field’

By stimulating conversations amongst its existing clients,
packaging promotes brand growth by introducing new consumers to a brand,
increasing penetration.

Packaging to Grow: A Model


Making it Happen

Case Study One: Powerade

Mission: grow volumes

  • Powerade could add value by printing specific gym programmes
    with expert trainer advice on the side of bottles.
  • They personalise packaging by encouraging consumers to
    suggest new programmes which are rotated on a 10 week basis; encouraging
    variation in gym routine [14] and generating sales through increased frequency
    of purchase.
  • Word on mouth is encouraged by displaying monthly challenges
    on in-gym vending machines; ‘challenge a friend to do the workout with you’.

Case Study Two: UKTV Food

Grow share of audience

  • In a digital world every niche station is fighting for
    share, and UKTV Food is no exception. They add value to idents (their packaging) by suggesting interesting new
    ingredients under the banner of; ‘Different Every Day’.
  • Customisation is delivered thru red-button – click on an
    ident for more information on an ingredient and how it can be incorporated into
    individual cooking regimes.
  • Partnering with Sainsbury’s and aligning UKTV Food’s
    ‘Different Every Day’ to the retailer’s ‘Try Something New today’ would see
    Sainsbury’s signpost in-store to the ingredient of the week; stimulating
    conversations via the most credible of corporate advocates.

Case Study three: Dulux

Consolidate market share

  • Dulux could add-value by attaching unique colour charts to
    their tins of paint, indicating – for future use – what items will match the
    new colour on the walls of Andy and Charlie’s room.
  • Behaviour two allows Andy and Charlie to create their own
    unique colour of paint, but rather than packaging it in a standard tins, they
    customise their own design and take the paint home in a bespoke tin.
  • Dulux then builds a social network group that allows
    customers to patent and publish their colours. This encourages Andy and Charlie to contact their friends, advising them
    that they can now order Andy and Charlie’s own patented Dulux colour for their
    own homes [15].


What you waiting for?

One model: three behaviours;

Add value, personalise, and stimulate conversations.

Use packaging to grow.

Sources and References

[1] Quotation from A market leader exclusive report: What is
really changing in Marketing Communications? (Julian Saunders). This crucial importance of existing customers
was reinforced in an influential piece of research by the LSE who identified
that “businesses seeking year-on-year growth may be overlooking their most
powerful growth-generating asset – existing clients, customers and consumers”

(Source: Advocacy drives growth – Exclusive research from the London School of
Economics reveals the benefits and pitfalls of word-of-mouth communication (LSE

[2] Delivering the Landmark Creative Campaign – a speech to
the IPA Outdoor’s Seeing Digital Conference (Rory Sutherland).

[3] This shift is reflected in the supermarket packaging
media; John Hagel has commented that “over time, more and more products entered
the market and shelf space became the scarce good (quoting John Hagel)

[4] Source: The In-store Environment. Research observed that whilst 30% of shoppers
demonstrated ‘selective’ shopping in 2003, by 2006 that figure had risen to
34%. Notably, this behaviour is
reflected online, where there are no isles; search engines make virtually all
customer orientation selective

[5] Source: The In-store Environment. Quoting from the same source: “The evoked set
is the group of products from which the shopper will make their final decision
… if categories or products do not appear in the evoked set, it is harder for
the merchandising and point of sale activity to differentiate a category or
product because it must enable both the conversion from visitor to shopper, and
from shopper to buyer”.

[6] Or art prints – depending on your perspective!

[7] When Radiohead’s ‘in rainbows’ was released in October
2007 as download only – unpackaged – the value was determined by consumers;
they could choose their own purchase price – the average price chosen to pay
was £3.88 (source). At the start of December 2007 the same
content was released in the form of a three-format discbox. The asking price for a product valued at
£3.88 with packaging? …£40.00.

[8] source … Quoting the site; "Get ready for
CUSTOMER-MADE: the phenomenon of corporations creating goods, services and
experiences in close cooperation with consumers, tapping into their
intellectual capital, and in exchange giving them a direct say in what actually
gets produced, manufactured, developed, designed, serviced, or processed"

[9] Early in 2007 Pepsi commissioned US design
company Arnell Group to develop 35 designs new designs for its cans, including
12 inch vinyls, gleaming hubcabs, swirling tattoos and 31 other pieces of
artwork drawing from different strands of youth culture – source.

[10] Whilst the bag – designed by Pentagram Design
technically didn’t have an infinite number of designs, more than several
trillion combinations gets it pretty much there.

[11] Quoting: Will Collin writing about the paradigm shift
in the communications industry in a Campaign supplement

[12] Source: The terms ‘Law of the Few’ and ‘Connectors’
were coined by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point.

[13] Source: Advocacy drives growth – Exclusive research
from the London School of Economics reveals the benefits and pitfalls of
word-of-mouth communication (LSE 2005)

[14] One of the key aspects of training is to change your
workout regularly. Varying the routine
not only avoids boredom but works different muscle groups preventing ‘plateauing’
in body-response. Different programmes
could be created – for example the strength-training work-out cardiovascular

[15] Their friends won’t, nobody would be seen dead with
someone else’s colour on their own wall. They’ll want their own unique colour, and they’ll know where to get it!

advertising, broadcasting, content creating, internet, planning, viewing

Two Distribution Models United by a Common Reliance on Creativity

back in Jan of last year I wrote a post outlining five thoughts on viral marketing – which essentially were: what’s the motivation to pass on, is it easy to view and pass on, does it have contemporary relevance and can it be measured?  the last of these is now infinitely easier with the announcement of YouTube’s new analytics tool – YouTube Insight.

whilst it’s good to know where in the world people are watching my holiday video, it will no doubt prove more useful in giving ammunition to the arsenals of agencies like Cake, who are responsible for distributing the above piece for Pot Noodle.  made by AKQA, it’s a spoof of Guinness’ Tipping Point.  and Honda’s Cog for that matter.  or actually the Orange ad with those colours  …or, come to think of it, a whole tranche of ads that have pretty much been developed on a similar theme ever since Cog’s effort.

what this viral relies on is it’s ability to pop a shot at these more glossy peers.  from it’s windy start, thru electric wheelchairs and wheely bins, to a blow up doll and eventually the Pot itself, the piece relies on the ability to remix what is now a very much established theme.  it’s creative remix at it’s best.  it also voices the suggestion by some of us in the industry who are thinking maybe enough of th Cog-cloning now thanks…

what separates this from Guinness’ original effort is, fundamentally, what a brand wants to get away with…  brands are eagerly able to rush in wherever the BACC fear to tread.  but it’s also a reflection of money.  it’s the level of available investment that determines whether a client adopts Pot Noodle’s viral model or the more investment-intensive broadcast model.

at lower budgets virals frankly are the only option, but it’s not quite that simple…  let’s say the above cost £40k to make and – thru free seeding and non-paid for promotion – generates 1 million views.  assuming that distribution costs nil, thats a cpt on views of £40.

compare that to a standard TV campaign that will cost – say – £300k to make and generate for the sake of argument an overall cpt (prod and media) for a 16-34 audience of around £20; twice as cost efficient as a viral.  but twice as cost effective?!  very possibly not…

the viral model is not only pulled rather than pushed content, but benefits from being recommended  rather than broadcast to an individual.  and when you consider that the above Tipping Pot viral clip has – according to Cake – been on 400 websites, three
national newspapers and on the Sky News viral round up, it’s not surprising that it’s considered to be a success.

ultimately though, each of the above models – whatever the numbers – both fundamentally rely on creativity… on the ability to capture and engage an audience with an idea.  doing that gives a brand the luxury of choice in it’s media model.  it’s perhaps to all of our detriment that too many brands – through a lack of creativity with their communications – depend only on broadcast communications for their efforts.  applying the test of the viral distribution model to more ads would be a sterner test than anything the BACC could throw at them.

thanks to for the link.