advertising, branding, storytelling

What’s your Story?: a tale of two narratives, and a big lesson in the power of narrative via Jamie Oliver and Thank You Group

ah the power of the story.

take the above. a video from Thank You – an organisation that, on discovering that 900 million people didn’t have access to safe drinking water, came up with a bold idea to create a bottled water company that would exist for the sole purpose of funding safe water projects in developing nations.

that was 2008. and now, having diversified into muesli and body care products, an organisation faced with the job of communicating that change to new and potential customers. the solution … not the best video ever made, but a genuinely authentic, honest and transparent one. real people in a real situation with a little novelty, script and editing thrown in.

it comes only a week after B&T reported that struggling Aussie vegetable farmers were ‘pleading’ with Jamie Oliver to intervene on their behalf and encourage Woolies to refund the marketing levy they were being charged to fund his ad campaign for the supermarket.

where do you start? no really … the dominance of the supermarket oligopoly? the David and Goliath struggle of growers and distributors? the relevance of the UK-based Oliver (who is awesome and who has done genuinely amazing things for healthy eating efforts) in all of this? the scale of paid versus the engagement and authenticity of earned media?

well I guess like any good story you start at the beginning …

once upon at time there was the story. we told stories that saved our ancestors from being trampled by wildebeest or running off of a cliff. then our stories took on moral and ethical dimensions, they passed on information and knowledge and created archetypes to which we still relate.

… our stories became assimilated by nation states and groups of individuals to describe and define identity. they communicated our struggles and challenges and victories and journeys, on every media, in every society and community on the planet. language was our first technology, and communication – of our hopes, fears and ideas – has become a defining factor of the human condition.

and so we arrive at two very different brand and marketing stories, the dissection and evaluation of which is less important than the lesson their juxtaposition invites: stories are ancient, powerful, emotional and transformative things,

… make sure you’re part of a good one.

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branding, content creating, creating

The Joys of Burberry, Part Two – Brand-Corporate: the authenticity of a business that communicates like its brand

about two minutes into the above video Angela Ahrendts, the outgoing CEO of Burberry, delivers a marketing masterclass:

“we needed to keep the story authentic. we needed to keep it pure. we knew we were going to target different audiences. we knew that the mediums would be different. we knew it would be so much more global than maybe things has been in the past, but the story had to be the same. so we said everything we’re gonna do is target this Millennial customer, and if we do that we’re going to have to speak in their language, and their language was rapidly becoming digital. so we studied this customer and then adjusted each of our strategies in order to be relevant and authentic to this audience that we were catering to. because I think everything you do going forward, you can’t do anything the traditional way. it has to be so visual, and we hit on this word ‘energy’ early on and said we want everything we do to have energy.”

it’s a very elegantly conceived and expressed set of convictions: things Burberry knew, clarity of audience targeting, the implications of engaging that audience on their own terms, and a set of beliefs that challenge convention and set a strategic behavioural direction for the brand. ask yourself how many of the brands you do or have worked on have that clarity of focus?

I wrote about the joys of Burberry’s marketing back in July. I described my admiration for their flip of the online / physical retail approach, the digital-first strategy and the pleasure in watching kisses fly across the world; and I described the prolific investment of time and energy into content.

what’s so interesting and awesome about this content strategy however, is the extent to which it’s spread into Burberry’s corporate culture … they have an entire section on their YouTube channel devoted to corporate videos. from financial results to exec travelogues, taking in a discussion of the group’s acquisition of its stores and related assets in China on the way. the video content is an authentic, consistent voice not of the brand, but of the business.

there is much to admire. this is a business with the story it wants to tell and conversation it wants to have firmly in its own hands. it’s not solely dependent on it’s relationship with reporters and journalists to share its news, agenda, and take on the world. the story as they see it is there for anyone to watch, not hidden in a column in the financial section or the ‘recent press releases’ page of the corporate website.

but more than any of this its a glorious demonstration of the business behaving in comms the same way as would the brand. this is important. and its rare. I can think of only a few businesses that try and succeed in doing so. mine certainly doesn’t … although I’d rather like it to. because more than anything else it’s a phenomenally effective way for a company to communicate to the constituency who are hopefully its most ardent advocates – it’s own employees.

of course there is an obvious danger; the assertion that such a ‘brand-corporate’ strategy is nothing more than a smart and elegant attempt to over-control the message. that a business journalist can’t question a YouTube video. that a shareholder can’t challenge a per-recorded statement. or that style will mask substance. to which there is only one simple response … just behave on brand: in the knowledge that consistency, transparency and authenticity will out.

and you don’t get more transparent than a YouTube video of Burberry’s Chairman Sir John Peace talking with an outgoing and incoming CEO about the news that Ahrendts will step down as Chief Executive Officer by mid-2014, with Bailey (on whom I have a purely marketing crush) assuming the role of Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer.

of course its well-packaged, and of course its practiced and of course well-finished.

but so is a great fashion brand.

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advertising, branding, commenting, content creating, marketing, planning

From ZERO to Hero: its Joseph Jaffe versus the world as he shares his theory on surviving the Mediocalypse

“In a perfect world, the optimal paid media would be zero”

and there you have it. in sixteen short syllables Joseph Jaffe yesterday laid the gauntlet to, well, everyone.

in a Mumbrella Hangout with Tim and Nick, Jaffe took aim and didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger as he took on the concept of paid media, it’s media agency proponents, media owner benefactors and client conspirators – all of whom are collectively woefully unprepared for the coming mediocalypse (that last word is totes all mine fyi).

Jaffe’s alternative vision is ZERO – a word that serves the dual purpose of being, in Jaffe’s opinion, the target investment a brand should make in paid media … and also an acronym for the elements that make up Jaffe’s counter theory … Zealots, Entrepreneurship, Retention and Owned assets (not media).

to say all this is brand new territory would be a stretch, but to say that it’s rarely been delivered with such zeal is not. Jaffe gleefully takes on Sorrell (“self-serving”), media owners (“complacency and mediocrity are not causes to be able to keep your job. being also to achieve … objectives and demonstrate proven value-add and utility and return on investment is a cause to keep your job”) and clients (“morons”). by the time Clive Burcham of The Conscience Organisation joins the conversation the platform is well and truly burning and we may as well all just run for the hills.

it’s easy to line up against Jaffe’s argument and theory: Ehrenberg Bass’ analysis would tackle the importance of Zealots, Entrepreneurship doesn’t offer the guarantee of exposure, success and ultimately growth that shareholders demand of businesses; on ‘Retention is the new Acquisition’ you can pick your counter-play, and there’s no client worth their salt that hasn’t developed and deployed an Owned asset strategy and plan. but here’s the thing … Jaffe is right.

the 30 second-shaped solution is to predominant. the ad venture is coming to an end. agencies and clients aren’t co-conspiring to create sufficient entrepreneurship and innovation. media is commoditised, and media thinking is undervalued. clients customers have become more important than their consumers, and despite billions of dollars of effort the scarcest commodity in the world remains human attention.

run for the hills indeed.

but despite Jaffe’s verging into hubris, he offers some wonderfully salient and sensible advice. his assertion that “the vision of ZERO is to move from being a tenant to a landlord” is a nicely articulated vision for how brands should increasingly approach their media planning; the idea of a “customer-employee ecosystem empowered by technology” makes total sense; that we should be advising our clients on how to redress the balance of their direct to indirect (media) investment is absolutely right; and to ask “why are we paying for attention, when we should be paying attention” is good enough to put on the t-shirt (should that be your inclination).

whatever side of the debate you’re on, you can’t deny that our negotiation of media’s future is the better for having Jaffe’s voice in the chorus. there will be heroes and outlaws aplenty in the coming mediocalypse, which one Jaffe turns out to be will be decided first by your perspective, and then by history.

PS if you want to skip to a couple of highlights in the above video jump to 13:17 to hear Tim deploy Nick to search for someone who has tattooed toilet paper onto themselves with the immortal words “Nick, to the Google …” or 13:44 to see’s Tim‘s earnest nodding and eyebrow raise at the news of Charmin’s acquisition of website ‘sit or squat’

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branding, managing, planning, understanding

Culture Clash: Why brand planning in Asia requires a rethinking of the Western Mindset

James_Parsons_flamingo

so I had the awesome pleasure yesterday of joining an OMG (that’s Omnicom Media Group – although you can sometimes forgive any mix up 😉 – Thought Bubbles session organised by the awesome Guy Hearn, Mark Gray and Shel Vei in Singapore.

the subject was The Myth of the Brand in Asia – a talk given by James Parsons (above) who is the Managing Director (Asia) of Flamingo.

James’ point wasn’t that the idea of a brand is a myth in Asia – rather that the idea of a brand in Asia is very different from the western way of thinking about brands … and that this has implications for brands and specifically brand planning.

James cited a Richard Nisbitt’s ‘The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why’, which I had never come across but which looks fascinating. the following is from the title’s Google books summary:

“When psychologist Richard E. Nisbett showed an animated underwater scene to his American students, they zeroed in on a big fish swimming among smaller fish. Japanese subjects, on the other hand, made observations about the background environment — and the different “seeings” are a clue to profound underlying cognitive differences between Westerners and East Asians.
For, as Professor Nisbett shows in The Geography of Thought, people actually think about — and even see — the world differently because of differing ecologies, social structures, philosophies, and educational systems that date back to ancient Greece and China and that have survived into the modern world.
As a result, East Asian thought is “holistic” — drawn to the perceptual field as a whole and to relations among objects and events within that field. By comparison to Western modes of reasoning, East Asian thought relies far less on categories or on formal logic; it is fundamentally dialectic, seeking a ‘middle way’ between opposing thoughts. By contrast, Westerners focus on salient objects or people, use attributes to assign them to categories, and apply rules of formal logic to understand their behavior.”

source: Google books

James’ observation was that understanding this difference has significant implications for how brands are planned for Asia. the conceptual approach traditionally adopted by western philosophy – that of the brand onion / pyramid / diamond etc, is less relevant for Asia, where things are thought of and described not as abstract, but in more tangible terms.

James’ two principal implications are that in Asia (1) context trumps content and (2) brands grow by doing not saying. he’ll get no argument from Mediation on that front.

in fact if that is the case I think you could argue that in many ways the West is catching up with the East in this regard. that brands are now defined and judged based on what they do not what they say is I hope accepted wisdom across most of the planning community (you could be generous and say not just judged by what they say but IMHO that’s a generosity too far).

its in the area of context versus content planning however where it gets very interesting. some agencies have played with the idea of context planning; a quick search on LinkedIn demonstrates that Naked here in Australia aren’t alone in job titling around the role of the context planner.

the examples discussed yesterday included exhaustive NPD and product extensions – the creation of context through new and next and tangible must have’s etc … the start of some thinking on this … will see where we go from here.

to request a copy of James’ paper, ‘The Myth of the Brand in Asia’ contact joot.teo@flamingogroup.com

featured image via Flamingo Group

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branding, conferencing, planning, publishing

Think Service not Content: What brands can take from Jeff Jarvis’ awesome advice to the newspaper industry

jeff_jarvis

featured image via the Guardian.co.uk | above image via wikimedia

so a couple of weeks ago was the 65th World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok (I know, me neither), the debate at which would have entirely passed me by had it not been for mediaweek.com.au’s handy reporting of the event which landed on my desk yesterday.

on page 9 I was very happy to see a write-up of the awesome Jeff Jarvis (above) who gave a talk at the congress entitled ‘New relationships, forms, & business models for news’. now mediation is quite the fan of the Jarvis and this is a subject Jeff knows more than a bit about – as well as working at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism  and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, he has an awesome blog at BuzzMachine which you should check out immediately … after reading this post.

what Jarvis tackled, with typical energy, was the idea that newspapers were not in the content business but rather the service industry. this must have come as a bit of an annoyance to publishers who had just gotten their head around the idea that they weren’t in the newspaper printing business but rather the content business. change, as the IPA 7th Social principal states, will truly never be this slow again.

Jarvis’ argument is simple:

“[being in the content business] leads us to say that our content has value and that people should pay for it. it leads to our structures of our news organisations and how they are made … content will be one of the things we will always do. but it is only one of the things … our primary job is to begin to look at news as a service … it changes the relationship we have with the public.”

he goes on to argue that this fundamentally moves the industry from a broadcast to one-to-one medium:

“this enables us to serve people as individuals instead of mass … online it is possible to serve people as individuals … I argue we should actually be in the relationship business. we should be about crating and managing and finding value in relationships with people.”

and furthermore, the relationships formed with the people newspapers reach aren’t passive:

“… many people will become our collaborators. our readers, most importantly, become our collaborators. other news organisations become our collaborators … this leads to a rule that I like to have for newspapers – do what you do best and link to the rest.”

all the above quotes Jeff Jarvis, via mediaweek.com.au

its classic and wonderful Jarvis – clear, compelling and challenging. but its also advice that shouldn’t just apply to newspapers. reread the above but replace newspapers with brands … the themes of (1) thinking service and value not (just) content, (2) serving individuals not masses (3) collaborating with customers and, perhaps most importantly, (4) sticking to what you do best and linking to the rest … is valuable and timely advice for anyone working with and growing brands right now.

brands, like newspapers, are just getting their collective heads around the idea of content creation and distribution as a ongoing and necessary staple of their marketing efforts. whilst of course some (RedBull, GoPro etc) are miles ahead, too often we (and when I say we, I mean I) see brands tackle content from a broadcast mentality. this (1) makes it very expensive, (2) pushes timelines into years rather then months territory and (3) puts a lot of marketing collateral eggs into one basket.

… its a bit like brands approaching content the way a newspaper would approach investigative journalism. lots of effort with a high risk of little return should the story not be there or pan-out the way you thought. Jarvis argues for a much for future-facing and focused approach … one that involves thinking about what you don’t do as much as what you do. and one that demands that we think of people as interactive individuals not passively massive groups.

thanks Jeff … keep doing what you do … you rock.

also a big shout out to PHD’s (well OMG’s) Andreas Vogiatzakis who presented our very own 2016 at the same event. awesome stuff.

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branding, broadcasting, conferencing, debating, learning, opinionating, television

Dispatches from Mumbrella 360 Day One: Coles’ McDowell on Aussie Families and Nine’s Gyngell on Waterhouse

another year and another gathering at Mumbrellaland (I still think they should call it that) for the annual 360 conference. I’ll sum up later but for now just capturing the notes and the content from the sessions I jumped into during day one.

up first was Simon McDowell of Coles, them of the down down, Status Quo, Dawn Frenchness and now biggest-boyband-in-the-world-ness.

Simon-McDowell-mumbrella

Simon McDowell at Mumbrella 360, picture source: Mumbrella

McDowell discussed the approach to marketing at Coles, describing it as “a bit of a creative hot spot, a melting pot … we’ve got a thousand ideas a day and we’re going at this hard.” by this he means making life better for Aussie Families, a picked this up because he mentioned the phrase ‘Aussie Families’ about forty three times, that’s almost one a minute. this seems to mean (1) bringing prices down and (2) making ads for them, and not adland.

he repeated asked us not to “be fooled by the sizzle on the sausage … we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in bringing prices down … It’s a fundamental part of what we’re about … But how do people know you’ve done it when sales [messages] are everywhere? … Is all just blah … Were really trying to be unique.”

Tom Donald asked about the negative response in the industry to some of the Coles ads. “Do I care what adland thinks? Not a bit. The Coles business is in a turnaround, we have more customers spending more money [with us] than ever before. Were trying to build the most famous and compelling brand in Australia.” (and, wait for it) “… we’re trying to create something that resonates with Aussie families”. cue One Direction …

on the more serious matter of supplier pressure, McDowell was firm but clearly less comfortable. asked if Coles was doing the right thing by farmers, he replied that “[all the] discounts are funded by Coles, the more milk we sell the better off farmers are. Prices are too high in Australia, we have to take care of Aussie families … at the end I’d the day we have to look after Aussie families where the cost of living is going up … we want to sell more. it’s a serious business looking after Aussie families and that’s what we’re about.”

just in case you’re not clear, its about Aussie families.

next up was Group M’s John Steedman in discussion with Nine’s CEO David Gyngell

John-Steedman-and-David-Gyngell

picture source: Mumbrella

its been a big year for the network, and the discussion covered a range of subjects …

on positioning Nine and investment in drama: “You have to stand for something. your audience has to know what you stand for … we’ll keep investing in Australian drama, [it] delivers against an audience that will watch linear TV for a long time to come”

that investment is based on an optimism about the future, saying that we are “heading into a purple patch for Australian drama – expect production to double.”

on the evolution of media, and the sale of the magazine business to Bauer, Gyngell was clear, saying that newspapers and magazines “won’t be as profitable as they were. quality magazines won’t go anywhere. the magazine business will be smaller and more nimble. newspapers will go online – less profitable but just as relevant. the fin review may lose $10m a year but you couldn’t buy it for $100m because its relevant.”

as far as digitisation of Nine goes, when asked when will Nine become a digital first company, he answered when you can make more on digital than we can at the moment. “we’re still nimble enough to be able to move when we want to. we’re not a digital company, we’re a marketing and content creation and distribution company.”

on advice for Seven and Ten: “Tim knows what he’s doing, and has Stokes around him. Seven won’t break because Tim won’t let it. Hamish is an accomplished marketer. if he gets a good programme he’ll know what to do with it. they need to get lucky … keep your head down and pray for some luck.”

its fair to say that Steady gave him a pretty easy ride as interviews go … it was left to a delegate to bring up Tom Waterhouse and the recent over-stepping the mark on programme integration and live odds. to which he commented that Nine, and broadcasters per se, have “a moral compass to provide to the country, but we’re not in the businesses of telling people what they can and can’t do. Tom Waterhouse was a lightning rod. we have a government that reacts quickly to any negative press. his competitors had a go – when the mafia start saying how bad the triads are you know what’s going on. we pushed it too far – we know that. did we overstep the mark? perhaps at the start when Tom was with the commentators. we’ve pulled back from that now and its the right balance.”

after that went to a cracking session with Rob Pyne of X or Y Decisions, about why businesses, and marketing teams in particular, make bad decisions. great insights and advice based on understanding and mitigating biases we inherently have when we’re making decision.

then Coady and I presented to a judging panel for Network Agency of the Year (which we won – yey!) … after which I jumped into Tom Donald‘s brilliantly fun session on fads – of which I hope there will be a future download / follow-up. and that (PHD’s session on gamification and evening drinks aside) was day one. here’s a pic of the guys collecting that Network of the Year award. whoo hoo.

Mumbrella-Awards-2013-APAC-Media-Network-PHD

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advertising, branding, copy-writing, praising, utilitarising

Of Promise and Production: Lessons for Telstra in Saying versus Doing from Dulux and Coca-Cola

bright shiny and new: the revamped Telstra ad that broke this weekend

featured image source

much has already been said of Telstra’s re-branding effort, which manifested itself over the weekend in print and on TV.  it’s all bright, shiny and new, and doesn’t look very Telstra at all … which I guess is rather the point.

I love it.  it’s optimistic, bright, clean, modern and very disruptive.  the copy is actually genuinely really uplifting:

today is amazing. connect with almost anything and anyone from almost anywhere. got something to say? boom … the world can love it. hate it. ignore it. whatever. stop and smell the roses you purchased online from the shop you just liked. because its never been like this before. it’s life in full colour. and it’s amazing.

it’s also much more than a marketing sea-change.  as the below video points out – it’s extending into every aspect of the organisation – from the vans to the identity badges…

it’s this piece of communication that’s much more interesting from a connections perspective.  the inclusion of things like identity badges gives it just a slight sense that it’s meant as much for internal as it is external consumption; a communication to Telstra’s staff explaining what’s changed.

it’s as though we’re listening in on a private conversation between an organisation and its staff – and it feels a lot more genuine as a result … if its an accident then its a happy one.  if its deliberate then it’s smart, and the opportunity is to go a great deal further.

much of the conversation on Mumbrella’s comment thread has debated the value of a revamped brand identity when the product and service fails to match.  but as Mumbrella’s indefatigable Tim Burrowes commented in an opinion piece on the site, the product does seem to be improving.

the challenge though, starts now. as the VO towards the end of the second video above observes, “we’re doing all of this to help us show all Australians just how amazing connected life can be” … the promise of a life lived in full colour isn’t the same as demonstrating to actual people in real and simple terms, what that means.  the promise can’t remain unfulfilled; the bright, clean, modern and disruptive packaging can’t be wrapped around an empty box.

of course if Telstra are really smart, then they’ll go the step further of actually making life more colourful for Australians …  what is Telstra’s similarly colour-inspired version of this?:

it’s a subtle but key mental shift: don’t just promise something – produce it.  don’t just promise more colourful lives, use your marketing investment to help produce more colourful lives.  the reach and awareness will come for free and will be more credible because the real conversations and voices of Australians will help create it.

it’s what Dulux have done with their promise of colour and its what Coca-Cola, with the recently released content below, have done with Happiness.  you can’t help but think that the people who created this asked themselves “what would Pixar do?” … and it’s the better for it.

 

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branding, co-creating, content creating, marketing, planning, publishing, user-generating

Context and Content: Communication lessons from African Drums and Harry Potter

African_drums
Yoruba ceremonial drums, Nigeria.  picture from here.

so the lovely Emily got for me a signed copy James Gleick's The Information for my birthday (thanks Emily) and whilst I'm only a couple of chapters in, its already proving to be a bit of a treasure trove.  the first chapter discusses the African Drums.  when 18th Century Europeans first heard the drums, they had no idea that they were conveying information.  yet the drumbeats contained detailed and what seemed to be superfluous information.

"Instead of "don't be afraid," they would say, "Bring your heart back down out of your mouth, your heart out of your mouth, get it back down from there" … the drums generated fountains of oratory"

the explanation for the elaboration is fascinating.

"in mapping the spoken language to the drum language, information was lost.  the drum talk was speech with a deficit … the drum language began with the spoken word and shed the consonants and vowels.  that was a lot to lose … consequently … a drummer would invariably add "a little phrase" to each short word.  Songe, the moon, is rendered as songe li tange la manga – "the moon looks down at the earth" … the extra drumbeats, far from being extraneous, provide context"

James Gleick, The Information, Chapter One

there's a beautiful parallel with the world and brands and communication.  the moments in which brands connect with people are fleeting and becoming more so.  there is a very narrow opportunity in which a marketer can convey information.  messages need context, and brands provide it.

so rather than someone hearing "we make cars" (the message) they hear "we make Jeeps" (the branded message).  this context takes the message from a simple "this is what we do" to a more richly imbued communication embodying all the associations someone recalls when they hear "Jeep's cars".

this context is crucial … "we make cars", becomes:

we make Jeeps

Jeep_ad

we make Toyotas

Toyota_ad

we make Hondas

Honda_ad

it's a useful thinking framework – to separate the context and the content.  marketers work in challenging times.  the potential opportunities to make meaningful connections with people have never been greater; but with opportunity has come complexity.  how are communications cutting-through?  how to create the most distinctiveness in market?  how and when to engage audiences through media beyond which that I buy?

separating context and content helps to address some of those challenges.

creation of context is the creation of brand meaning.  what does my brand stand for?  why does it exist?  what are the associations I want to create (or reinforce) when someone recalls my brand.  this is a long-term process, and it's contribution to a brand's business not always easily measurable.  but it's crucially important context – and the marketer is responsible for continuously creating it.

creation of content is the creation of the message.  we're having a sale this weekend.  new model now available.  we've improved our fuel efficiency.  the role of content is to influence and stimulate an action or a response.  these are shorter term, and the extent to which they permeate and become salient in market are very measurable.  they can also be spread with huge efficiency by media other than that which is bought.

separating these two elements helps navigate increasingly complex waters.  how can I – as marketer – create context for my brand?  a context unhindered by the need for immediate ROI in market.  what platforms (through owned media) can I create to hold and communicate this context?

…and how can I efficiently and effectively deploy my messages into market?  how can I inspire and encourage people to pass-on that message on my and their behalf?

the combination, like the African drums, are simple messages imbued with the richest of context … so that the content is un-mistakenly attributed to its brand.  the add the pieces together you first have to separate them.

which brings us, of course, to Harry Potter – and this week's announcement that the upcoming Deathly Hallows Part 2 won't be the end of the Potter franchise.

Potter as brand is now established.  seven books and eight movies have communicated the narrative and its characters, all of whom are now familiar memes in our culture.  like Star Wars before it, Potter – because of the human stories it tells – is now firmly embedded in the popular psyche.  but context and content have hereto been one and the same; the experience absolutely binding the two together.  books and movies as one-directional communication of story.  around this controlled narrative a user-generated culture arose, but it never penetrated back into nor influenced the context or content coming from JKR, Bloomsbury and Warner Bros.

that's about to change.  Potter is about to undergo a context content split.

Potter as a brand is now evolving to have two distinct streams.  the context will continue to be provided by JKR and co.  both the ideological: what are the rules and conventions of the Harry Potter universe?  and the physical: in the form of the Pottermore owned-media platform (which will also be the sales platform for HP eBooks).

but content will now, for the first time, be created by JKR and anyone else with the passion and energy to contribute.  the long-term building of the Potter brand co-existing but separate to the short-term creation of Potter content.

the evolution is already apparant … the above announcement inviting and teasing its audience to "follow the owl" – an ARG element signalling a shift in the Potter brand to one that is co-created, crowdscourced and owned by everyone.

we're all drummers now.

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brand extending, branding, campaigning, co-creating, community-building, connecting, earning, gaming, owning, praising, social media-ising, user-generating

Big Planning and Big Thinking: How Bendigo and Adelaide Bank use owned & earned media to deploy a little utility into the world

Got a big idea that you want to bring to life? Create a plan, share it and make it happen with help from the PlanBig community

so the lovely and awesome Zaac posted a link to my wall of the above effort from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.  it's called PlanBig and, in it's own words, its…

"… a way for people to get together to make things happen and make a difference.  We [Bendigo and Adelaide Bank] believed that there was some real value in giving people the chance to come together in one place to talk about ideas, share inspiration, offer advice or help make things happen for themselves or someone else.  PlanBig brings together the experiences, knowledge and expertise of people with different skills from all walks of life and all ages to help each other get ideas kick started."

it's a delightful and instinctively attractive platform, which elegantly ticks a range of boxes including – amongst others – socialisation, co-creation, crowdsourcing and gamification.  it also has a elegant and seamless execution that connects with the Book and other social platforms…  the badges-as-reward effort has been borrowed from FourSquare, as has the Book's Like concept (in fact the functionality is a bit like a social network functionality greatest hits, which isn't a bad thing – better to use functionality with which we're familiar … makes it more, well, functional).

as the site observes, "Bendigo and Adelaide Bank feel so strongly about helping people realise their dreams, they’ve been doing it in local communities for over 150 years" … so this platform is just a natural extension of a brand proposition that's been in market for over a century.

it's also another example of the owned and earned media combo (note the absence of bought media) to create (1) utility (2) meaningful connections with a community of people and (3) content ripe for the amplification – if even a few of these ideas get big it will be marketing gold-dust.  all of which makes a great deal more sense to me than buying a shedload of ads telling people what competitive lending rates you have.

this genuinely feels like a brand / product extension with sociable and marketable assets built in from the ground up.  it's a communication for people, by people, and its infinitely better for it.  good on 'em.

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branding, cinema, connecting, futuregazing, internet, IPA|ED:one, opinionating, thinking

An opportunity not to be missed: what Tiffany Shlain’s ‘Connected’ means for brands as the internet transforms us and our world

so last night, thanks to Disco Davo (thanks Disco), I was lucky enough to be amongst a cinema of people gathered to watch an Aussie-first and unique screening of a movie called Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology.

organised through social media club sydney in conjunction with AMP's AmplifyFestival, Tiffany Shlain's (@tiffanyshlain) film is a narrative on how the internet is fundamentally changing us, interspersed with a personal account of a year in her life.  the result is a fascinating polemic on the nature of our interconnectedness as a species.

much was well-trodden territory for this blog … but there were two aspects I hadn't heard before that I found particularly interesting.  I hope that Shlain won't object to me sharing here…

one, Shlain described how in her father's book 'The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image' he made the connection between how the invention of the written / printed word had coincided with the rise of men in social, political and commercial circles.  he argued that this was because the written word is processed by the left side of the brain, which is more male.

last century's 'iconic revolution' (Shlain's term) – which saw imagery and images became a more predominant form of communication – coincided with increased predominance of females in society.  images are processed by the right side of the brain which is … more female.

the interesting conclusion is that the internet, with it's heady mix of words and images, is processed more of less equally by both sides of the brain, and is therefore a mass-communication channel that isn't biased towards one gender or the other…

the other aspect I found fascinating is how the brain and our body chemistry is predisposed to both connectedness and the pleasure hit we get from the stream of information on the internet.  when we connect, we release oxytocin – which evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security.  Wikipedia notes that 'many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear' … so the more we connect, the less anxious we are, and the internet allows us to feel more connected than ever before…

dopamine is released when we experience something pleasurable, and encourages us to keep performing the action ad-infinitum (as there's no diminishing return from dopamine).  Shlain's interesting observation is that – as dopamine is released when we get a 'hit' of new information … we are becoming addicted to the internet (or more specifically the infinite content that it gives us access to)

if you get a chance to catch the movie I urge you to do so … it's a fascinating and beautiful experience.  and it left me thinking about the role of brands and advertising in Shlain's interconnected and interdependent world.  from one perspective advertising and media fuelled the worst of the excessive consumption society that is now placing sustained pressure on our environment…

…but on the other I can't help but think that Shlain's hypothesis presents us with a clear opportunity, an opportunity defined by a simple question that I can't shake.  in an inter-dependent world where billions of people increasingly connect, communicate and coordinate as communities, why do we continue to so readily seek to engage with individuals?

in an inter-dependent world, the only thing that matters is shared agendas and communities of interest.  and more specifically, what matters most is an opportunity for brands to fuel – rather than interrupt – their interconnectedness and interdependence.

its utility, but its more than that … its potentially brands becoming a key and fundamental part of a dopamine and oxytocin-fuelled revolution in how we live on earth…  it's tantalising enough to warrant asking what you would want of the brands with which you work?  …  for them to be part of humanity's next giant leap, or reconciled to history as part of the iconic revolution that for a while so influenced our culture and behaviour?

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