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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insighting, marketing, planning, researching, understanding

Yeah Yeah but what’s the Insight?: a lesson in reverse-engineering from Contagious Magazine

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a couple of weeks ago I found myself in the fortunate position of being one of the delegates on Contagious Magazine's Crash Course, a one-day workshop in the company of @JessGreenwood and @gual_contagious in how to understand the changing landscape of communications, but more specifically on how to apply Contagious' observations of this landscape to my own strategy and thinking.

there was huge value in the day, but one particular exercise has stayed with me.  one particular exercise that forced me to stop just admiring and enjoying other people's strategies and execution, and really think about them.  as an exercise its elegance itself, and one that I've certainly forgotten to do of late.

the exercise consists of a simple question; on seeing or observing a case study or piece of creative communications, ask yourself a single question…

what was the insight?

what was the crystallised observation of humanity that led to the solution?  what was the observation that sparked the execution, or experience, or application or movie or competition or retail space or book or course or race or tech or social media monitoring desk?

it's beautifully simple, and forces you to not just passively admire the work your looking at, but intellectually interrogate the work to understand how and why it was developed…

try it with these … for each example of work, ask yourself what the insight was?  the answers – as suggested by Contagious, are beneath…

Burberry
Canon
Levis
Lurpak
Nike
Orange

OK … now for the insights that led to the above:

Burberry_insight
Canon_insight
Levis_insight
Lurpak_insight
Nike_insight
Orange_insight

you may think that some of the insights are obvious, but everything so gloriously is in retrospect.  and in many ways the best insights are obvious; and whilst that doesn't make them any easier to spot, it makes it all the more enlightening – and for that matter fun – when to try to guess…

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conferencing, content creating, debating, innovating, internet, planning, thinking, understanding

Running away to the Circus: Dispatches from The Festival of Commercial Creativity – Josh Spear on the Fringe

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Circus_josh-spear Josh Spear is "from the internet".  no really, he is.  he put everything owned in the Internet and now has much of his possessions stored in the cloud.

his website, JoshSpear.com emerged in 2004 from the back of a Journalism 1001 class in which he was disappointed with the way academics ignored blogs as an emerging media. Josh describes his home as "a daily source of inspiration for marketers, brand managers, advertising executives, and a wide range of everyday people from around the world who love to stay ahead of the curve"…

which I guess more than qualifies Josh to be talking to us at Circus.  his theme was 'the Fringes of the Internet', and the way the internet is affecting people and businesses.

he described how shortly after starting his blog he was approached by businesses who wanted to put ads on his site, this turned out to be a fine way to made money, and led to a conversation with advertisers about how effective the ads on his site were.  very effective it turns out … they were seeing click-through rates of 2%…

two percent? asked Josh.  yes, they replied.  that's a 98% failure rate, said Josh.  yes they replied, impressive isn't it!

Josh guessed then that the internet would have a major impact on businesses, and co-founded Undercurrent, a digital strategy firm that applies "a digital worldview to the challenges and ambitions of complex organizations"

"It's about the human behaviour we're going to talk about not the specific websites"

4chan is bad place on Internet but it's also important.  it's anonymous.  people respond to photos with photos.  [it's a bit like the Abyssal plain of the internet; a deep, unexplored region rich in biodiversity that influences the rest of the ocean in ways that we're only just understanding] … it's where 'I can haz cheezburger?' began … the LOL-CAT meme.  a meme which now results in tens of thousands of cats created every day.  like this one:

Lolcat

the misuse of worlds isn't an accident, it's very deliberate.  and globally consistent and understood.  it's a language called LOL-Kitteh.  the Bible has been translated into LOL-Kitteh.

Rick Rolling began on 4chan.  in fact "anything funny that's unexplainable starts on 4chan".  to the extent that a Time Magazine poll ranked Moot (4chan's creator) as the web's most influential person.  only later was it noticed that the first letters of the ranked online poll spelt out a phrase.  an incredibly sophisticated and advanced work of electoral engineering / hacking.

Moot_time_magTime Magazine's 2009 online poll results.  the first letters of the top 21 names spell out "marblecake also the game".  marblecake is the name of the IRC channel where Anonymous started their campaign against Scientology, and "the game" is a reference to "The Game" meme source: Wikipedia

the rabbit-hole, it would seem, goes very deep indeed.  "4chan is 'the bottom billion' pageviews on the Internet".  Spear points out that two things consistently happen to Moot (who is called Charles) (1) he is forced to dump 4chan's data every 12 hours due to hard drive space and (2) every week he is served a subpoena for the information he holds (before it's dumped).

[this is all pretty mind-boggling I'd have thought for the average brand marketing manager, and you can see how they would be queuing up for the elvish Spear to safely have them gaze down the rabbit hole without falling down.]  things used to be simple.  then there was digital.  which disrupted.  everything.  this is such a familiar phrase that it's beyond cliche, but Spear asks a very interesting question:

"is there a unit of disruption?' … and how do you stay on top of the disruption?  which happens all around you all of the time and increasingly finds ways to impact on your sensory sphere.  much as this blog discussed in a January 2010 post, Spear describes Tweetdeck as one way to control the disruption.  he has "become an air traffic controller of my disruption"

we are our social graph.  we're made up of our disruptions [connections], a point made wonderfully and elegantly with this map of the world, a map formed by nothing but the connections on Facebook.

Facebook_world

What happens to a generation of people growing up in the world as drawn by this map and 4chan?  a world populated by cat memes and Rick Rolling?  a world in which gifts are given virtually.  Spear pointed out that thousands of dollars are spent on things that don't exist.  virtual economies are springing up everywhere.  Farmville makes $50m a month.  when Bear Stearns collapsed, a friend of his at Facebook didn't contemplate the collapse of the further banks but rather was promted to think that Facebook should start a bank. 

Virtual economies are being used by brands – for example the number of tweets Uniqlo products received affected their price – a fascinating dance between buzz and value.

Uniqlo_tweet_price

 

Radiohead_in-rainbows

Radiohead invited people to pay what they thought their album was worth, an invitation that made more money than all other record sales combined.  People's idea of money is changing.

the same goes for people's idea of location…  take Foursquare, which introduced game mechanics in the form of mayors and badges.  Foursquare also allowed tips to by left inside the check-ins, inside the game.  tips linked to location so that they're readily available to those who enter the space.  Foursquare allows reviewing in realtime on a geographical basis…  Spears asked why people share all this information, and showed a slide outlining three reasons why we share adapted from MIT research and Henry Jenkins:

  • Strengthen my bond – you are what you share in your social graph
  • Define collective identity – you are based on the five people you spend most time with
  • Give me status

Viral = a bad thing, something you catch

Spears notes that 'pass-along' is made not of viral, it's made of people sharing something with more than one of their friends, and so on.  reaching people is about tapping into cultural resonance.  to test this, Spear's office put an image of a funny(ish) joke about Tiger Woods on the web.  the pic got 30,000 views in first 48 hours, created a 'microblip' of cultural resonance … a map of interest, which could then be observed.  so how, in Spear's opinion do you create cultural resonance?

group of people + unique culture = amplify to affect society

it's about tapping into a shared interest online because you can't rely on time and space, as shared interests are a way of creating cultural resonance. connect your brand to this.  or don't.  these interests are being shared whether brands get involved or not.

but be careful brands – angels fear to tread where P Diddy TV trod with Burger King.  the video has long been removed, but fortunately for us Lisa Nova's spoof lives to remind us how it want down (nb Nova is now working in TV comedy – she got noticed because she understood the rules of the internet)

in Spear's opinion the fringe of the internet has a novelty scale:

Spears_novelty_scalethe fringe's novelty scale, as presented by Spears

Spears says that agencies who want to use things like crowd sourcing or 'the fringe' to do their work need to either be the lowest cost option, or the best.  if you're neither, you're stuck in the middle, and the middle is not a great place to be.

Spears asks what is the Internet good for?  advertisers and agencies may answer that it's good for awareness [incremental] and persuasion.  but Spear observes that this is not what the Internet is meant for.  the internet is meant for sharing, cooperating and collective action.  the latter of which is, in Spear's words, "the holy Grail of humans using technology"… at the fringe are the beginnings of these kinds of great examples…

Copenhagen-wheel

the Copenhagen wheel collects data from your bike.  one person doesn't generate enough data to paint a picture of a city, but eveyone's data does … and allows the aggregation and interrogation of usable data to generate insight and utility.

Ushahidi encouraged free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and in the aftermath of Haiti and Christchurch interactive maps directed resources in realtime to where help was most needed.  the US state dept now relies on this kind of information to coordinate relief efforts.  crowd sourcing is used to collect and sort data.  organisations no longer ask for money but for a little bit of time and effort.  Alive in Egypt transcribes voice messages into tweets, allowing people to deploy messages and information even when access to the internet is being blocked.

Egypt_alive-in-Egypt

So what has 4chan guy got to do with the fringe?!  well what if all the people sending cats around every day gathered intelligence instead?  they already have, it's called WikiLeaks, and "we can't yet imagine how this will affect the world"

Some challenges for brands:

  • how do you change from interrupting people into adding utility for people?
  • How can brand engage with born digital consumers in their language?
  • If you take a brand into the universe of the internet, ask yourself if you are following the rules of that universe?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with enough people that speak digital?

the contents of this post [unless in square parenthesis] is the content of a talk given by @JoshSpear at Sydney's Circus in February of 2011, thanks to Josh for his input in writing this post

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content creating, praising, researching, understanding

Bringing our understanding of people to life: what happened when BAMM went to Africa for Nokia

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one of the biggest challenges and opportunities we face is bringing to life our collective understanding of people in meaningful and engaging ways.  beyond the demographic, beyond the observation or statistic, beyond the quote or the screen-grab …there lies insight and understanding of people (I nearly typed consumer there) that inspires, influences and dictates the best of what we do.

its awesome then to see such interesting work emerging from the boys at BAMM, who sent me a note describing what they'd done for Nokia in Africa…

"As part of an international project for Nokia we looked at bonding behaviours in different cities across Africa, Asia and Europe. The team spent a week with a middle-class family in Lagos. We observed, interviewed, photographed and filmed Amaka with her extended family. We were guests at the naming ceremony for her eight-day old baby, which gave us better insights into how her community bonds."

BAMM_quote BAMM_people_pic
in a world where more information about more people is more available all the time, experts who can go somewhere, experience a place in time and the people within it, and return with valuable, genuine and actionable insights about what they saw and heard becomes increasingly valuable.  whenever I see what these boys do I redouble my own efforts to go beyond the observations and stats and mine for myself the insights that make our communications as meaningful and effective as they deserve to be.  brilliant stuff.

you can see the video of what BAMM did for Nokia here

BAMM_Africa_video

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