morning PHDcast listeners. Nic was in the hot seat this week for the not-the-ooh laa la edition of the PHDcast. bien sur 😉 … awesome job Disco
much of the debate this week was in and around TV watching – how it’s changing and what the implications are, especially for brands. I wrote about some of the aspects of this in my post on Friday, but it’s worth dwelling on a point Stew makes at the twenty minute mark around people watching programmes not channels. I think that’s true but I also think its not quite as clean cut as that, and as the CBS / Time Warner stand-off enters it’s second day – leaving 3 million American’s without shows like Hawaii Five-0 (I know) – it’s clear that there is much more to come as the distribution wars heat up.
also on the cast we got round to talking about the Magnum Pop-Up Experience hitting Sydney. following the success of the store in other cities, the ground floor of Westfield in Sydney’s CBD has for the last three weeks been the latest place to get the pleasure pop-up. you get to design your own magnum … white, milk or dark chocolate plus plenty of toppings, all for a mere $7.
as I say on the cast, it’s a phenomenal example of a brand pulling the trick of landing marketing that gets people to pay for its own existence. andthe fact that people are queuing up for it is proof positive of the indulgence for which the brand is known.
the always amazing media update from James, Sisse and the gang brought with it this week a couple of treats which kinda got me thinking … the first is an effort, above, from Virgin Atlantic who transformed a Manhattanpark bench into a Virgin flying experience, complete with champagne, food and real life movies.
the other was an effort, below, from Molson, who built fridges full of beer that could only be unlocked by someone with a Canadian passport, much to the delight and joy of the crowds that had gathered for the unlocking.
these both share a fair bit of DNA. they both are great experiential efforts designed not really to be experiential – but rather content; content designed to be enjoyed, shared and of course land a comms message in the process. and they both rely on the participation of innocent strangers – collateral vantage if you will – to bring realness and credibility to the situation. they’re pretty much givens, but there’s something else they both have in common … something deeper and I think more significant.
but this week our own Mimi, not one to miss a sweet treat, dropped us a note that the Magnum Pleasure store will be opening in Sydney. hurrah. this is off the back of Cadbury’s Joyville effort locally …
so what’s going on? well I think we’re seeing a definite increase in the amount of random acts of kindness from brands. we’re witnessing nothing short of a surge in desire and investment into spreading a little love and happiness. the evidence of the brand-inspired Joy is all around. like love, and so the feeling grows. sorry.
now you could argue that this isn’t really anything new; that the last few years (if not decades) are riven with examples of marketing sharing a little love and happiness … be it Coke’s vending machines (or even back to teach the world to sing) or the playful inventiveness of Skittles or T-Mobile from Liverpool Street to Heathrow or insert-your-example-here … you could argue that brands have always been in the business of creating Joy. however I think this is distinct for two reasons:
one, these acts aren’t surprising and delighting the passive massive through broadcast, but rather the more tangible and meaningful individuals on the street. these acts are very deliberately public – that strikes me as significant; the acts are witnessed, at that witness makes them realer, more credible, more meaningful and more potent. and I think this is important.
the other reason is that I think it says something about the state we’re in … I read ages ago (and I honestly can’t remember where) that popular culture generates content opposite to the prevailing mood of the times. Sorkin created Bartlett when America needed him, then post-Obama positivism was countered by darker, less sure-footed heroes like Nicholas Brody. I’m wondering if the same can be said for marketing?
from the collapse of states to environmental insecurity, via PRISM, to economic uncertainty and the realignment from west to eastern dominance … we’re in pretty shaky times – you could say that winter is coming.
perhaps our collective unleashing of marketing Joy is the brand equivalent of the contemporary prevalence of the superhero: shear joy, positive unabashed certainty at a time when our world no longer gives us these for granted.
I’ll leave you with one last little bit of joy … a video from Google celebrating how we have and continue to build the web together. it’s a genuine joy … so, well, … enjoy.
a delightfully awesome idea via the delightfully awesome Upworthy …
SoulPancake encouraged totally random people to shout out to people who have changed their lives. and they did. and SoulPancake made a video of it. and then I watched it. and I got thinking about all the awesome people who have changed my life. and now I feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
I love the pure physicality of this idea. it could so easily have been a digital execution; where it would certainly have had more scale, greater pass-on, less risk and a plethora of innovations and platforms to bring depth and meaning to the idea.
none of which it needs,
despite the fact that physicality has soooooo many downsides …
physicality makes things geographically limited. stuff can get broken or damaged. people have to overcome the huge fear of public embarrassment by taking part. which means loads of people won’t. you have to get the location right and people need to be there to watch all the stuff and what if you get the location wrong. or it could rain. or there could be a local planning regulation thing that you forgot to take account of. and only 322 people will see it. and people are busy, will they honestly engage with an over-sized microphone in a shopping mall?
none of which matters.
far from limiting the idea, the physicality of how people were encouraged to do this makes it all the more powerful … the physicality of the invitation, and the physicality of people’s shout-outs transform a cute idea into a powerful affirmation of relationships and connections and influences that make us who we are.
so jumped out to grab a smoothie this afternoon and caught some awesomness happening at The Galeries Victoria at Town Hall. the Galeries have teamed up with Warner to promote Man of Steel by letting people fly over Sydney like Superman, courtesy of Google Earth technology.
a playing card: your invitation to explore Port Arthur exhibitions and information
upon receiving your entry ticket to Port Arthur's visitor centre in Tasmania you receive one of the above cards. the card is one of a couple of dozen or so playing cards, and each person visiting the site gets a different one. mine was the Queen of Diamonds.
the Queen of Diamonds: my card invites and allows me to take a personal journey through the attraction's exhibitions
much more than a souvenir however, each card invites it's owner to take a journey through the visitors centre following in the footsteps of one of the inmates of two centuries ago, when the port was Australia's second penal colony in then Van Diemen's Land.
each room in the exhibit is tailored to allowing you to exploring a specific journey for your card; a journey that reflects the actual journey taken by a specific inmate in the facility hundeds of years ago. what was their name and where did they arrive from? were they well behaved or not? were they punished or rewarded? did they take on a trade? did they ever leave the facility?
I loved this approach for three reasons. the first is that it takes something that could be quite rational, remote and, well, historic and makes it personal and personalised. approaching the visitor's centre and its exhibitions from the point of view that someone – a real person – actually went on this journey changes your mindset towards how you approach it. you are more involved, more connected. you care more.
the second-reason I love this customer solution is because of how this approach mitigates choice-overload. it tackles that feeling many of us must be familiar with when you walk into a museum and think… where to start? and then where? … non of this here. you are presented with a clear path and invited to ignore some exhibits. this doesn't compromise your visit, in fact it actually liberates it.
but the reason that I most love this approach is the extent to which – explicitly or implicitly – it invites conversation, a point made by Davey too when I was chatting with her this morning. when a group of people goes through the visitor centre none will take the same journey. there will be knowledge gaps that the group will fill through discussion and conversation? where did you go? who was your inmate? did you see X? these gaps, what I call knowledge differentials, fuel conversations immediately after the experience but also, by making the navigation tangible (the playing card) they can also extend into the future.
I hope that Port Arther build on what they have. mobile and tablet functionality now allows them to take this tailored personalised approach to a whole new level. you could choose your character in advance and then download the journey with audio that you could listen to on your phone as you tour the centre. social functionality would allow you to share your journey with your social networks in real-time as you go through the exhibit – or share stories with strangers who went on the same journey.
a playing card. a simple and elegant thought that added disproportinate value to my visit; and exactly what every experience should be – personal, curated and social.
so about to head for the weekend and XFactor but just picked this up on the twittersphere and thought it was a rather delightful thing to end the week on. from the 24th of September until the 11th of October, Dublin's Liberty Hall is being transformed into a giant 50 metre, low resolution, TV screen. the best bit – anyone can join in… members of the public are being invited to create animations that will be displayed on the building as part of the project.
brilliant example of digital spaces and places being amplified in the real world. echoes of the HBO project but with an added open invitation for anyone to showcase their creativity…
here's hoping that they're investing in amplifying it… desktop applications that show what's going on in real time, lots of YouTubeness, and perhaps some kind of digital book that captures and showcases the best examples.
more of this kind of thing please… and if you want to get creating then click here.
grabbing samples at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; (top) Fraser and me grabbing some Haribo, (bottom) Mark and I on the Dr Pepper
so my good mate Mark this morning sent me thru the above pics taken whilst we were in Edinburgh a few weeks ago. during my heady couple of days of non-stop show-seeing and jumping around at the Fringe, we stumbled across a couple of brands sampling festival-goers on the Royal Mile. hence the rather delightful pics above of my good self with Fraser and Mark (who doesn't normally have a moustache but who was in a show and so has at least one good excuse)…
which brings us to the subject of sampling. when to do it, how to do it and who to do it to. I guess my brief Edinburgh experiences tell me a couple of things; one – that its essential to get the right people at the right place (no poo Sherlock) but two, that I'm not very convinced that sampling on its own is enough…
to the first point; it was sunny, we were festivalled up, having fun and running around. in that context both brands were spot on in terms of understanding who they were targeting and why. a bag of sweets and a can of sugary good stuff were perfect additions to the afternoon. for both brands, adding their fun-filled good stuff to such a positive and buzzing environment meant that they complemented and were complemented by what was going around the sampling teams.
but to my second point, what was the actual benefit of the exercise? they got brand in hand but I'm sure there's more to the opportunity than this… shouldn't both of these brands have been looking to add an experience to the sampling moment that made more of the sample's investment but also more of the person's investment in taking time to sample / experience the brand.
it is in many ways the opposite situation to that of Pot Noodle's (above) effort at last years Festival, where Mother staged a musical (which I wrote about here). great experience but what about the sampling opportunity? at the very least handing out pots of the stuff after the show… but they could have gone further – what about Edinburgh Festival limited edition Pots, or a mechanic that incorporated a sampling experience into the show.
the bottom line is that sampling and experience are increasingly part of the same equation. but not just in some strategic 'yeah cool lets join it up' way, but rather in an intrinsic, bound together, one can't and shouldn't live without the other kind of way.
a brand on which I currently work is using pop-ups shops to sample some NPD, because venturing into a space which lives and breathes what a brand stands for whilst being offered an opportunity to take a bit of that brand's product with you is infinitely more powerful than being handed it cold in the street… and when that street in Edinburgh is one of the busiest, crowded and expectant streets in the world, that's an opportunity you couldn't and shouldn't afford to miss.
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.
Clay Shirky opens up his Here Comes Everybody with the story of Evan Guttman, who used social media tools to help his friend Ivanna retrieve her lost phone when the finder – a young lady called Sasha – refused to return it to it's rightful owner. he makes the observation however that these evolving social media tools (online publishing, forums, wikis, online social networks etc) are on their own not enough…
"[social media] tools are simply a way of channeling existing motivation. Evan was driven, resourceful, and unfortunately for sasha, very angry. had he presented his mission in completely self-interested terms ("help my friend save $300!") or in unattainably general ones ("let's fight theft everywhere!"), the tools he chose wouldn't have mattered. what he did was to work out a message framed in big enough terms to inspire interest, yet achievable enough to inspire confidence."
you need what he quotes Eric Roberts with calling, 'plausible promise'. and it was this idea of plausible promise that occurred to me when I saw the above mastercard ad for The Eden Project's 'big lunch'. which is – to quote the mastercard website:
"a national initiative developed by the Eden Project to bring the
country together, by asking you to sit down with your neighbours for
lunch in a simple act of community … on Sunday 19th July, the nation will witness the
street party to end all street parties. The organisers of The Big Lunch
are inviting as many of the UK's 61 million people as possible to
simultaneously sit down together, to meet, eat, talk, laugh and feel
the event – for which there's also a film-making initiative in association with Raindance – has social media at it's heart and is using Twitter, Flickr et al to enable interested parties to organise themselves into action. but I'm skeptical about the 'plausible promise' of it all… big enough to inspire interest, yet achievable enough to inspire confidence?
it's certainly big enough, with mastercard's not-insignificant investment behind the above 40" tv ad campaign, but is it achievable? despite a brilliant and very functional website, will individuals really organise themselves into having lunch with a bunch of people they don't know in order to 'feel hope'?
it possibly most likely that people who already know each other will perhaps drag themselves into action using the big lunch as a sufficient reason to do so; but I fear that this fails on the second of Roberts' requirements. it's simply not – I fear – very plausible. any marketers and agencies would do well to check to what extent an initiative they decide to undertake fulfills the two plausible promise tests.
marketing success for initiatives of this type require more than just promise; they need to feel real, achievable. they need to feel plausible; and I worry that this doesn't. I hope that the big lunch is a success. I hope it brings people together, I hope that it makes a difference, and I hope that the time, effort and investment that has gone into making it happen is worth it.
a beautifully sunny idea for what will hopefully be a beautifully sunny weekend… welcome to the Disposable Memory Project, which has the simple aim of telling the stories of cameras left in random places around the world. the idea is that people will pick them up, take a few photos and pass them on, with the cameras and the photos they hold eventually returning home.
it's a simple, elegant idea for an age when experiences have higher value than things, when social aggregation can be virtual and where narratives aren't predetermined or linear. I don't know if a brand is behind this, but I bet plenty wish they were.
at the heart of this idea are jeopardy and mystery. if I leave a camera somewhere will it be found? by whom? what photos will they take and will those photos make it home? there are no guarantees; something that feels exciting and different in a world – and marketing landscape – where amazing solutions vie for our attention and unbeatable answers clamour for our questions.
Mediation finds it more than a little comforting that in an on-demand world where we expect to be able to get whatever we want whenever we want it, some things aren't set in stone. I intend to join the project and set me own camera on it's way. I look forward to the uncertainty of its fate, and meeting – through shared virtual experience – some other people on the way.