content creating, engaging, IPA|ED:one, social networking, user-generating

I Loved it So Much I Bought (Into) The Company: the rise of the crowdmanaged brand

so those observant people at Springwise have spotted the latest brand to cede control to its potential consumers.  hot on the heels of crowdmanaged eco clothing company nvohk and MyFootballClub's purchase of Ebbsfleet United comes

for just $50 you get to join an online community for beer lovers where you can not only share your passion for beer but at the same time help create a brewing company.  as Springwise reports, the site:

"…is currently recruiting a minimum of 50,000 members, each of whom
will contribute USD 50 in exchange for voting rights on ideas such as
the company name, logo, product design, product mix, marketing plan,
advertising and sponsorship … Assuming the concept goes well, profits
will be divided three ways: one part to members in the form of reward
points redeemable for products from the Beer Bankroll store; one part
back to the company; and one part to charity"

this potentially potent project is feasible because of tho things: (1) access to information and (2) the ability to share and manipulate that information within the context of a networked community.  and it of course relies on Surowiecki's three requirements for Wisdom in a Crowd: diversity of opinion, decentralisation and independence.

I used to work with a small brewery brand and I acutely recall conversations about how they could, and should, more effectively and transparantely engage with those consumers who (we knew) loved their brand.  but the old habits of deployment of planned branded communications won out (and still does – I observe – to this day).

that brewery and many other brands should be paying close attention to this space.  how long before we all have a couple of side-interests in brands…?  brands that will not only occupy a small – very engaged – part of our mind, but a considerable share of our wallet too.  after all, if the brand was so good that you bought and continue to buy into it, why – when you get to the shelf – would you buy anything else?!

engaging, internet, social networking, user-generating

Analogue Politicians in the Digital Age: how YouTube came to Downing Street

back in June of last year I wrote a post in which I quoted Tim Montgomerie who in the Spectator suggested that the next general election will be remembered as 'Britain’s first internet election'.  He
notes that “in this new world [of internet communities] the campaign
staff of political parties and traditional media will have a much
smaller share of power”.  I suggested that both brands and political parties needed to shift from 'send' to 'receive' mode.

either because of my post, or as a result of jibes made by David Cameron that Brown is "an analogue politician in a digital age", Downing Street has just engaged its 'receive' mode.  it takes the form of a Downing Street Channel on YouTube, on which – in the above video – Gordon asks for questions from the YouTube community.

it's an interesting – if clunky – development, and a far-cry from the slickness of the WebCameron site.  but this is part of it's charm.  despite the fact that watching the PM ask for questions like "how globalisation's working?" or "what's happenning to Climate Change?" is a bit like watching a bad audition for Newsround, there is the clear ambition to not only let consumers set the agenda, but to go to an existing community.  this should be applauded; Cameron's site may be slicker, but it's still effectively a walled garden.

what will be really intriguing will be the potential debate that this could start…  Chris Crockers Britney video has been viewed 20 million times and has spawned a plethora of text and video responses.  we should hope that a similar, if less emotional, post from Gordon on globalisation could instigate a similar response.  we live in hope.

branding, engaging, praising

When Positionings Get Real. How Honda Show Their Power of Dreams.

gotta love Honda’s efforts.  having demonstrated their ‘Power of Dreams’ positioning thru several high-profile ads, they’ve taken the step of allowing their 4ft 3in ASIMO – which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility – into the real world.

plenty of brands can talk at length about their positionings, but few get the chance to demonstrate it.  fewer still allow themselves the effort and energy to demonstrate it with such panache…  ASIMO is demonstrating Honda’s positioning for real, and that speaks volumes for their ambition to show rather than talk about the power of their dreams.  watch and learn.  watch and learn.

IPA|ED:three, planning

Clive Woodward. Why every client should have one.


“Integrated Communications are like weapons of mass destruction. Everyone knows they exist but no one has ever seen it done”
David Jones, writing in Contagious Magazine (Is your work Spongeworthy?)

“My role isn’t to do players’ jobs for them. My job is to ensure that every player
performs to their potential and as part of a team”.

Clive Woodward, BBC Interview

“A coach is not a teacher and does not necessarily know how to do things better than the coachee. A coach can observe patterns, set the stage for new actions and then work with the individual to put these new, more successful actions into place.” [1]

A whole new ball game

Media fragmentation; consumers with less time, little attention and no patience; an infinite amount of broadcast and on-demand content; digitisation rendering channels irrelevant [2]; technology to control and filter demanded content [3]…

The last decade has seen the emergence of a whole new ball game. The collective response of the communications industry has been twofold. Firstly, diversification into a multitude of different and varied operations [4]; secondly, generalisation …historically all props had to do was scrummage; now they expect themselves to run, catch, pass and lift in the lineout too!

With so many new players and such a new and more complicated ball game, how does a client – our bewildered [5] Chairperson – approach who decides tactics? Who does Communications Planning on a brand?

What’s the aim of the game?

What do we need someone to be in charge of? Jim Taylor defines Communications Planning
(CP) as [6]:

“The discipline of developing a holistic plan, across marketing and trade marketing functions … beyond simply selecting channels and allocating monies … defining the proposition … identifying the best consumers … creating a ‘big picture’ … weaving together every aspect of a brand’s communications” (Jim Taylor, Space Race).

Fundamentally CP is about uniting budgets, and subsequently allocating that unified budget across specialist disciplines, based on the extent to which each agency can deliver on their particular aspect of a holistic strategy; so CP is:

  • Establishing the match strategy
  • Deciding who – of the 22 man squad – is on the pitch at any one time
  • Ensuring that everyone plays as a coordinated team

Who’s in charge?

One of several different models is generally adopted. The client may opt to do it themselves, but clients are limited in what they can achieve without agencies [7]. The chairman has, at some point, to relinquish control to the team, generally via a lead or all-agency model [8]. However there are two key flaws to both.

One, individual agencies can never know enough about other disciplines to ensure CP they derive consider every perspective. It’s like asking prop-forward to plan a game strategy incorporating the nuances of the role of fly-half; the knowledge required is too broad and getting broader all of the time [9].

Two, Buckminster Fuller’s principle: “If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” (as quoted in John Grant’s After Image). A player will never take
themselves off the pitch; the very concept that any one agency can comprehensively and without bias write CP that excludes themselves is fundamentally compromised.

A new Approach

Given this fact, its little wonder CP as a discipline hasn’t found momentum [10].

It’s time for a new approach…

The Chairperson lacks the resources to implement CP, but tasking any – or many – of the players to be in charge is flawed. Yet the pitch is packed with a team of talented and skilled individuals, many of whom excel in their individual positions. The client’s problem isn’t a lack of players; the client’s problem is lack of a structure to ensure that the positions all play as, and in the best interests of, a team.

What the chairperson needs …is a coach.

The Mantra of a Communications Planning Coach

  • Coach is not a communications planner; coach does not dictate a plan.
  • Coach facilitates the establishing of match strategy and negotiates who’s on the pitch at any given time.
  • Coach is independent and neutral.
  • Coach is ‘T-shaped’; with historical grounding in one area but with a broad extent of shallow knowledge across a range of disciplines.
  • Coach captures the Communications Plan without composing it.
  • Coach work alongside agencies, coordinating their collective input.
  • Coach is independent of execution, and remunerated by client based on an annual fee.
  • Coach comes from anywhere; from within the client, from an auditor, from a management consultant, or from agency holding companies.
  • Coach doesn’t set objectives but champions them once agreed.
  • Coach utilises a ‘Connections Wheel’ [1] ensuring no consumer touch point remains unexplored.
  • Coach’s success is measured by the collective success of the CP agencies.
  • Coach is mobile but operates a shared workspace available to all agencies.
  • Coach is gatekeeper to the unified budget.
  • Coach’s perspective is from the view of the entire team, thereby keeping an eye on competitor CP, as opposed to the most visible and measurable aspects of it.
  • Coach talks to the trade as well as consumer marketing.
  • Coach only expresses an opinion when they have to.
  • Coach highlights incongruities and abhors contradictions.
  • Coach maintains a position of independence by virtue of the fact that at no point will Coach ever step on the pitch; that’s the agencies’ territory; across which each position is free to play their own role by their own rules.

Letting go

Agencies – as players on the pitch – need to let go of CP; which won’t be easy. But release brings freedom to do what they each do best; to play and perform in the knowledge that they’ll have a dedicated resource ready and willing to involve them and incorporate their ideas and recommendations into CP.

By letting go, agencies win for themselves the freedom to play their own game as part of a wider culture in which ideas can come from anywhere, and are communicated to everywhere, to the benefit of everyone on their team.

Q: What approach should a client take in terms of who does communications planning on a brand?
A: Hire their team a Coach. Fast.


[1] quote from The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work (Perry Zeus & Suzanne Skiffington)

[2] Once content is digitised, not only it can exist in any digital channel, but move seamlessly across channels. It is this intrinsic that led William Gibson
to first comment that “The remix is the very nature of digital” – ie digitisation of data and content facilitates transformation – remixing – of that content.

[3] Example of on demand include RSS (Really Simple Syndication) which automatically relays content deemed relevant to the consumer, and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) – TV via broadband, which is currently seeing substantial investment by UK TV companies. To quote Rob Norman in his speech Do Different “In the final analysis the world has gone on demand. That puts it beyond our control”.

[4] And a lot of specialists there now are; WPP Group has 247 companies globally and 194 offices in the UK alone.  All companies relate to communications
services “Through our companies, WPP offers a comprehensive and, when appropriate, integrated range of communications services” source

[5] Reasons for clients outsourcing Communications Planning are varied and well documented. They can’t source quality talent, nor pay for them – their headcount doesn’t justify it. Nor can they justify the investment of purchasing and integrating all the systems and data they’d need to comprehensively implement CP internally, especially for what is essentially seen as a cost centre for the business. Plus they’d lack external benchmarks from other clients.

[6] It should be pointed out that there is still no agreed consensus on what the term actually means, tending to mean different things to different agencies and clients. The IPA defines it rather vaguely as “A holistic planning approach to engaging a brand’s audience to ensure greater effectiveness”.  Source: communication Strategy – A best practice guide to developing communication campaigns (IPA), but this could arguably apply to any disciple; to any player in the team

[7] A In a recent survey, 48% of Chairpersons stated their belief that they were best placed to be in charge of CP. Whereas 31% of clients hand over control
entirely – believing that one or more of their players are best placed to be incharge. 38% of clients and agencies prefer a lead-agency approach, with 50% preferring an all agency model (Source: A best practice guide to developing communication campaigns (IPA)

[8] 31% of clients hand over control entirely – believing that one or more of their players are best placed to be in charge. 38% of clients and agencies prefer a
lead-agency approach, with 50% preferring an all agency model (source: best practice guide – IPA)

[9] The requirements for Communications Planning set out by Jim Taylor’s in Space Race are multiple: “The discipline of developing a holistic plan, across marketing and trade marketing functions, that defines how a brand will communicate with consumers … beyond simply selecting channels and allocating monies … defining the proposition … identifying the best consumers … creating a ‘big picture’ … by weaving together every aspect of a brand’s communications”. It’s ambitious for a team of agencies let alone a single agency to accommodate each of these perspectives

[10] The lack of progress is noted by Tom Morton writing in Campaign; “Comms planning as a standalone department within agencies hasn’t
been a great success”
, one possible explanation is offered by John Grant in After Image who notes that “The in-fighting seems, if anything, to be pulling
some agencies and consultancies back from innovation, towards lowest common denominators”

[11] The Connections Wheel is a tool developed by TBWA, and described by Jean-Marie Dru in Beyond Disruption. I’m not suggesting that the Connections Wheel is the specific solution for every coach, but a tool that enables the Communications Planner Coach to ensure that all potential routes are covered
will be essential.

broadcasting, content creating, regulating, social networking, viewing

Kate Modern’s no-so-modern Commercial Model

Kate_modernBebo’s Kate Modern will end next month

on June 28th Bebo’s Kate Modern, the online drama broadcast by the social networking site, will ‘air’ for the last time.  the strategy of creating bespoke content for the SN is a solid one; it not only attracts and locks in new users, but adds value through interactivity with content to existing users.

however EQAL, who make the show (and formerly Lonely Girl 15) have suggested that in future they’d like to see more than the 1.5m views the average episode received.  doesn’t sound too bad to me…  whilst a quick scan of the Viral Video Chart  shows that the top 20 virals currently deliver anything between 30,000 and 3m views, a better comparison is with the ‘push’ model of broadcast television, in which an average digital channel would be happy to get 1.5m people to watch an episode.

but the more interesting observation is how Bebo applied such old-school thinking to the commercial model.  A spokeswoman for Bebo (quoted here) said the show was profitable
because of the sponsorship deals it put together with the likes of Orange, Toyota and Cadbury Creme Egg.  but this seems like a missed opportunity…

like any online site / brand, Bebo has to be clear about what it is.  Yahoo’s current woes stem from the fact that they don’t know what they are.  Google by comparison are quite clear.  they’re an advertising company.  Bebo would say that they are a social network, but it could be argued that by being seen to ‘create’ Kate Modern, they confuse this proposition.  they should be the third force of Anderson’s Long Tail – connecting source and demand, rather than part of the first – democratisation of production.

but perhaps the biggest opportunity is being missed by brands, who are contenting themselves with being attached to someone else’s content rather than producing their own.  its Orange, Toyota and Cadbury that should be making Kate Modern (or its strategic equivalent), and using Bebo as a distribution mechanism.

Bebo (or any social network) should be happy to filter content from elsewhere…  and benefit commercially from the audiences it attracts as a result…

advertising, viewing

The Lynx Effect: Changing a Business without Changing the Business

saw the Lynx 3 ad in the cinema last night.  you’ve got to give them credit…  how do you use communications to double the volume of consumption of your product?  well… you get people to use twice of much of it whenever they do use it.  shamelessly brilliant…

it follows on the heels of previous ads which have visually suggested using the spray all over one’s body – the same tactic being employed; get people to consume more whenever they do use it, increasing frequency of purchase as a result.

a simple communications solution to a key business challenge  …without any elaborate suggestions about how a client needs to fundamentally change their business.  like Lynx that regard…  refreshing!