IPA|ED:final - existing customers, planning, praising, researching

Going beyond a Wing and a Prayer: How Guardian Media Group’s efforts to measure the extent and effect of Word of Mouth should improve the quality of planning for us all

GMG_WOM_intro a very illuminating visit from Guardian Media Group this morning, with Chris Pelikarno and Mia Barnes coming into Vizeum towers to talk us through their recent Word of Mouth research.  the study, which follows on from their exposure and engagement research pieces, sets out a framework for identifying and measuring the extent of influence of individuals' propensity to propagate messages and information via word of mouth.

so Gladwell so good.  but the study went a great deal further than this, GMG have not aggregated significant amounts of existing research and information into this area, but have then gone on to fuse the data onto BRMB's TGI so that anyone with access can tangibly integrate WOM analysis into their planning.



in a nutshell the research identified three traits and abilities make one person more influential than another… "Weak Ties, Bridging Capital and the Status Bargain are the core of what makes a person influential.  When combined these factors allow people to access and spread ideas and opinions faster and more persuasively than others".  the research then used Emmanuel Rosen's ACTIVE theory as a framework in both qualitative and quantitative research as a way of measuring the extent to which people have Weak Ties, Bridging Capital and are likely to make Status Bargains.

what was really smart about the research was the recruitment method for respondents…  ten individuals were selected and interviewed, as well as being asked to rate themselves on ACTIVE measures.  those individuals were then asked to recommend other people GMG should talk to.  they were then interviewed – including rating themselves and the person who have recommended then on ACTIVE measures – and asked to recommend more people and so on and so on till the research panel was 350 people strong with ten networks running throughout.  ten networks available for measurement and analysis of the extent to which different individuals and the traits they demonstrate affect the levels of WOM through the networks.  fuse this onto TGI via a recontact survey of 1,359 people and Bob's your uncle you have an integrated WOM analysis planning tool.



the research – of course – achieved the task of demonstrating that Guardian readers are more influential than the average newspaper reader, but its achieved much more else besides.  by investing in both the aggregation of existing WOM theory and then following thru into practice with real people in real networks, GMG has advanced the agenda of one of the most important topics in planning of the moment.  as Mediation has commented previously, we too often plan brand communications with the ambition and expectation that people will talk about it, but its too often on a wing and a prayer…  we're planning blind, with fingers crossed that the right people will talk enough about what we put out there to propagate our message and – as the IPA have shown – increase the effectiveness of or efforts.

but the real story of this research has only just started.  in handing over control of the data and putting into potentially every planner's hands, GMG will see their efforts propagated far beyond the number of presentations they can give to media agencies.  this could and should help change planning culture: going beyond the crudity of awareness and reach measures and allowing planners to plan in and around the reason advertising actually works.  we're all better off for GMG's investment and generosity.  other research studies could learn a thing or two.


Seeing the wood thru the trees: why a complicated world demands resolute focus on the basics

Ultimate_online_blueprint I love and hate this.  its a brilliant systematic of the various roles and capabilities of online / digital communications and how they can integrate.  found it on keatster55's Flickr page courtesy of here's the thing.

I love it because it rather elegantly captures – as keatster55 puts it – "how all on-line and off-line channels can be fully integrated and
connected to the Web site to ensure that highly targeted and relevant
user journeys can be achieved based on how much we know about the user
and the channel that has referred them to the Web site".  its all good thinking and its all very clearly put together and, well its all good.

but I get really nervous that it disguises what's really going on.  in the maelstrom of measurement and online consumer journey tracking and hourly advances in online media capabilities there's the danger that we forget what we're trying to do…  in short, engage people with brands, and more specifically (if you're lucky) with the ideas to which those brands pin their colours.

we need to make sure that our ideas don't get lost in the blueprints of our increasingly complex media infrastructures.  make sure that a response rate for a new online creative idea being lower than the previous executions doesn't (automatically) kill the idea.

there is – of course – a simple way thru; which is to keep resolutely focused on who we want to talk to, and what the idea is that we want to engage them with.  and indeed what we'd want them to say to each other and back to us having been presented with our ideas…  its the wood – and we need to be sure we can still see it through an increasingly complex set of trees.

advertising, blogging, broadcasting, co-creating, engaging, planning, remixing, social networking, user-generating

Thinking from a different place – the rewards of letting go: what happened when Vizeum debated who exactly is in control?

TFADP_II but what does it all mean?: Hook, Grant, Bailie, McClary and Corcoran with chair Chris Maples debating at Vizeum this evening

who's in control?  that was the theme of this evening's Thinking From A Different Place debate at Vizeum.  do brands make what customers want or do customers determine what brands make?  do creative agencies still control creation of the best ideas, or are the crowd now creating and aggregating the best content?

a panel, consisting of Vizeum's Matthew Hook, We Are Social's Robin Grant, Martin Bailie of Glue, Michael McClary from Microsoft and Andy Corcoran from MTV all awesomely debated a range of subjects from the decline of the newspaper industry to the impact of technology, taking in the future of media agencies and the nature of brands and advertising on the way.

it's easy to summarise such a debate by saying that its all getting more and more complicated and more and more difficult and we all need to move faster and faster and be better and better to stay ahead; but a few interesting comments steered the debate in a more illuminating direction.

Martin pointed out that we focus too much on the next big technology, or on the specifics of what people are doing with technology now, rather than focusing on two millennia of human psychology to point us in the right direction.  as he put it, if we "get the basics right you're 80% there" – produce interesting stuff that's based on a interesting point and view and land it in the laps of as many of the right people as possible.

the question of listening to customers was numerous times, in particular by McClary who observed that there's a "danger in highlighting [and responding to] only the loudest voices".  Hook agreed, observing that whilst you can engage 1,000s in a conversation, many brands are interested in talking to and influencing millions.  Corcoran reminded us of the Henry Ford quote that "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted they'd have asked for faster horses".

but it was the nature of control that caused the most interesting debate.  Grant: "historically brands were more in position of control"; Hook: "marketers desperately want control, they do everything they can to create predictability [of the result of their actions]"; Bailie: "it doesn't matter – no one controls brands; get rid of the idea of control"

for me its about maintaining a balancing act; about knowing when to keep and when to let go of control of what a brand does and how it does it.  would you ever let the crowd determine your core creative idea or brand positioning? …almost certainly not.  would you let them create content inspired by it? …yes.  should you let them make your products? …no.  should you le them choose the ingredients? …of course.

a point was made about the recent successes of Facebook and Twitter, with a question being raised about what business they're in.  they are – of course – in the business of aggregating audiences.  that's the media business.  the point of whether or not they can monetise that aside (big aside I recognise but run with it), part of their success is down to the fact that they capitalise on the fact that one of the best ways to grow an audience is to get your current audience to do it for you.

giving away control – of your product, or whatever is appropriate – is a particularly effective way of getting an audience to do just that.  give them ownership, give them reasons to talk about you brand, its point of view and its products and services.  but most of all give them a reason to come back, to stay part of the conversation with you.  because its those conversations that are the most valuable bit of media real estate of all.

advertising, experiencing

The Power of Experience: what Brands can learn from the pressures of supply and demand at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival

Fringe_09_collage some of Mediation's Fringe highlights, from topish down – Pappy's Fun Club, Showstopper the (improvised) musical, the 80s Movie Flashback, Wolfboy, Private Peaceful, A British Subject, Picasso and Heyton on Homicide

on one hand an abundance of supply, with limited budgets to communicate, and a desperate need to stand out.  on the other a premium on attention where time si the most valuable commodity and the biggest problem is navigating a plethora of choice.

not a crystallisation of the current media paradigm, but rather a description of the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where this weekend Mediation ended his summer break with a frenetic 48 hours taking in a dozen shows.  from WW1 deserters to 80s movie Flashbacks, taking in on the way a Victorian murder mystery and a musical about repressed teenage sexual tension in which one of the protagonists may or may not be a wolf.

that aside, the Fringe provides us with an interesting microcosm of what in many ways is being debated as we negotiate the future of media and communications.  too much supply, not enough time and or attention, and a desperate need to stand out from a vast crowd of other acts…

some principles did however emerge

  • reputation (1).  have one and remind people about it.  in a world of massive choice a reminder of what you've done and why you deserve attention helps a lot
  • reputation (2).  acts that were in bigger and respected venues were much more likely to convert.  an hour is precious in Edinburgh and rightly or wrongly an act getting into an established venue is seen as a pre-filter of quality.  choose carefully where people see you
  • word of mouth.  create some.  by far and away the most important factor that determined what I saw (after the fact that my friend was in it) was recommendation.  we know this to be true…  don't expect it to happen, make it happen…  set up the conditions – Pappy's Fun Club for example have a diverse digital presence all aggregated on their website.  they make it easy for you to recommend them
  • be different.  no matter what the cost.  being right but fading into the background is worthless.  if standing out means taking a risk and / or investing a few dollars then do it and make them count.  in a world of flyers being given a squidgy coffee cup with the name of an act on it was enough to make me remember and want to go
  • facilitate engagement.  make it easy for people to find you.  from thinking about what time you want to be on to shouting the venue on communications made a big difference

but above all I was reminded of how powerful a live experience was.  from a play dissecting British Foreign Policy (and occasional apathy) to nationals imprisoned abroad, to a musical made up on the spot based on audience suggestions; the act of creation in a live space is a powerful way to communicate an idea.  we should be more often planning for brand comms to have this potency of live experience.