Monday, 29 April 2013

A new way

I was flicking through a well thumbed copy of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding and re-read the short chapter on The Law of Contraction. The authors expand on their thinking that great things happen when businesses and brands narrow their focus and give several examples of brands who have achieved great success by following this principle.

The basic premise for those who have not read the book is that by narrowing our focus we can either create a new category like Stolichnaya did with premium vodka or become synonymous with the category think submarine sandwiches and Subway.

Any way this got me thinking about how agencies could follow the law of contraction in a new and interesting way. We all know that the over whelming majority of work produced by agencies is for existing or potential clients but what would happen if an agency contracted its client focus to zero - crazy right.

Well at first hearing this idea sounds like financial suicide, agencies have viewed their reason for being through the client prism since time out of mind. Clients bring context, legitimacy and more importantly budget to the creative process but they also bring bias, historical baggage and their own perspective regarding what is possible.

So what happens when you remove the client - you remove the filter through which you see the market.

And when you remove the client filter all ideas can be viewed from one simple perspective - will it change how consumers behave.

And given the consumer empowered world we now live in what moves consumers to behave differently will be the defining factor governing success for businesses and brands in the future.

So can agencies develop a deep understanding of a vertical market - of course they can.
Can agencies instigate a consumer conversation - absolutely.
Can they produce a planning thought without a specific client in mind - easily.
Could agencies produce creative concepts for testing with consumers - no brainer.

So if an agency can identify a gap or opportunity in a market, develop an understanding of what drives consumer behaviour and produce a planning thought that would drive the creation of a conceptual idea, do we still need a client in the traditional sense?

But where is the commercial return for the agency?

The idea still has to be sold, no doubt about it. But consider this, the idea may be relevant to multiple clients rather than one, giving the agency more opportunities to generate a financial return. By selling an idea you don't have to wait for the pitch and can instigate an approach to a prospect at any time. And finally would clients be more open to seeing another set of credentials or looking at a road tested idea from an agency who understands their market and their customers, I'll let you decide.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Do we really care about brands?

I noticed last week, after the man from Tesco dropped off the weekly shop, that we had 112 items with three substitutions on our receipt. Surprisingly I did not care about the replacement products and it was only as we were packing away the groceries that I realised I didn't really care about the over whelming majority of the branded products that we buy on a weekly basis.

After all my life was not going to change because I was drinking Nescafe instead of Kenco instant and the fact that Tesco had decided to bring me McVities chocolate digestives instead of my usual Fox's Classic was hardly cause for alarm.

In fact after reviewing all the products we purchased last week there was only one that I would have gone out of my way to ensure we had in the house. (Sanex Zero Shower Gel - sensitive skin!!)

So after all those expensive TV, Press, Outdoor, P.O.S. Online, Social and Viral Video campaigns only one brand from 112 products created any form of loyalty.


Well its not because I am an advocate for Sanex,  I don't visit their website or love their commercials and I have no idea if they have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Its because sore itchy skin really bothers me and their product does not irritate an existing eczema condition.

Whilst this example is anecdotal I think it demonstrates that what we really care about is what branded products actually deliver versus the brand itself. And if you want a personnel demonstration of this then the next time you are unpacking your groceries ask yourself if you had forgotten one of your weekly purchases would you leave the house to go and get it? 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Great work or great results

For as long as I can remember the foundation upon which all creative agencies have been built is the belief that, above all, they must produce great work. But what exactly constitutes a great piece of work?

My personnel belief is that great work produces a great result for the client which is measurable and demonstrable. Anything less simply is not cutting the mustard.

Its not about winning prestigious awards or acclaim from our peers or even having something sexy for our portfolio. The bottom line is that the creative output is, always has and always will be only a means to an end and that end is a positive commercial outcome for our clients.

Now I am not saying great work and great results are mutually exclusive clearly that is not the case. However during my tenure in the agency world having met, presented and pitched more clients than I care to remember I have never, ever had a client ask that we produce a great piece of work.

With that in mind is it time for agencies to change the focus of our narrative from what we do to what we deliver.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Social engagement or digital PR

Social media has a lot to do if it is to live up to its billing. Marketeers, it would seem, are having a hard time proving the ROI for all their expensively assembled social campaigns. It would appear translating followers into a financial benefit, even if they "like" you, is a feat Harry Potter could struggle to achieve.

This week we have heard from Sir Martin Sorrell who has shared with us his view that twitter is a PR and not an advertising medium. It would appear that there is a lack of consensus as to the correct definition, role and outcomes social media can deliver amongst the marketing communications industry.

Clearly these new and exciting communication tools have a lot to offer and we are only in the infancy stage of our understanding of best practise. Perhaps our expectations for social media are too high, not surprising given the constant hype, perhaps social is not the only answer to the engagement problem after all people are still watching TV, reading newspapers and listening to the radio.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Is big data the answer

Big data has arrived, no doubt about it. Every where you turn whether its blog posts, industry titles or the great and the good of the corporate world people are talking about big data and its ability to bring clarity and predictability to businesses and brands.

Maybe I am being naive or perhaps I have not truly understood the full capabilities of this new way of working but surely the challenge that marketing professionals and brands face is what are people going to want tomorrow.

Given that my opinion, preferences and desires are constantly ebbing and flowing and ultimately being influenced by a myriad of different sources in our always connected society how can what I bought yesterday ever be a sure indicator of what I am going to purchase tomorrow.

After all data can only show us what has happened and over a given period of time it can highlight trends in people's behaviour which has a definite use. But this is only useful whilst my preferences and behaviour remains unchanged the second these start to change the data becomes less valid.

So in a world where change is the constant can big data ever be truly effective as a predictive modelling tool.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Retail Evolution

According to Graham Ruddick of The Telegraph today (08/01/13) 300 retailers went into administration during 2012. These figures would beg the question why are so many companies getting it so wrong?

Clearly an easy answer would be its the economy but if that were the case then how are companies like John Lewis not just surviving but thriving.

Obviously there are no easy answers and there will be numerous factors at play in pushing well know brands such as JJB Sports, Comet and United Carpets into the hands of the administrators.

But is there a more fundamental problem facing retailers

Considering that the single organising principle and reason for being that lays at the heart of every retail business is to return shareholder value. But here is the problem I have never met one single consumer who gets out of bed in the morning with the intention of helping any retailer make more money for its owners.

Instead consumers are more focused on enriching their lives, living their dreams and making themselves happy. Clearly a straight forward disconnect. But are these objectives mutually exclusive?

No, all that is required is a realignment and a sharing of objectives, the consumers objective. Retailers simply need to embrace the notion that making profit and returning shareholder value is a byproduct of creating happy consumers.

Perhaps the old retail adage that the product is king is not quite the whole story, more a case of the consumer is King and my products should make him smile otherwise he will bestow his patronage else where.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Vertical Montanas

Working in the marketing communications industry I get to see lots of creative ideas and work. And just occasionally I come across a piece of work that warms the heart.
Vertical Montanas By Cinco is a beautifully executed piece of work that captivated me with its child like simplicity. Story telling that is unencumbered by language, gender, race or religion.
Content that engages is the must have of the moment for brands but how do we define engagement. Clearly Cinco believe in a light hearted and emotionally warm approach that is as remarkable for its impact as it is for gentleness.