It’s just an idea. Really?

A lot has been said about creativity and this sure won’t be the last thing written about it either. At the agency we often get a question to quickly think about something, quickly help on finding an idea for something small. We have the creatives right so can they not just help on that, it’s just an idea.

This brings up the most difficult and the easiest part of our job. We do have a group of really good creatives, really talented and all award winning creatives. So finding ideas is quite easy. For them. The thing that we forget here is that they are ‘trained’ creatives, they’ve lived their whole private & professional life to be good at what they are. So talking about finding ‘just an idea’ is as disrespectful to their talent is it would be to ask a baker to ‘just bake a cake’ or a tax consultant to ‘just find a way to avoid some more tax’. If that is your talent, if that is what you learned to do well then it deserves every bit of credit and isn’t just a small thing.

So it’s easy. For them. Then again it’s difficult. When you want to find ideas it’s important that you know where to go look for them. You need to figure out what is exactly the problem you’re trying to solve and how to develop the best possible ‘creative boulevard’. It needs to be right, relevant and inspiring enough for the creatives to start searching for ideas. Ideas that will answer the client’s needs, however big or small that need is.

So, if I may, I’m not a creative but please never ever again ask for ‘just an idea’ when you need talented creative people to solve one of your problems, big or small. Create value, value creative remember.

Dare to say ‘focus on the consumer’ one more time

[Rant alert] Seriously. I’ve had it with this gratuitous expression. I get it, we all get it by now don’t we? There’s no reason for every presentation to feature a slide with this so called knowledge and then someone in the audience will tweet it and it’ll definitely generate a few retweets. And every time I can’t help thinking: why?

It’s not like I don’t agree, but isn’t that just the most obvious thing to say? That’s hardly rocket science is it. I find it even obnoxious if you are running a business or in charge of marketing that wouldn’t be the case by default. How do you believe you are ever going to win in business if you’re decisions are all based on everything but the consumer. And how do you deal with your marketing when the consumer is not present in how you build out your plans? Seriously. The fact that there are still so many people that ‘see the light’ when someone tells them they should focus on the consumer is beyond anything I can understand.

And – like I’ve written before – I don’t see how it changes how companies operate. Credit where credit is due, you see some companies transform, but since we can all maybe name just only a few I guess that proves they are still exceptions to the rule. Companies don’t all of a sudden focus on the consumer, they couldn’t even if they wanted to. In many cases they have little to no view on who those consumers really are. And then I don’t mean 18-55 year old women or millenials because those descriptions do more to prove my point than than anything else. Even in the age of ‘big data’ most brands don’t have too much of an idea about their consumer base, let’s just be honest about it. And how can you focus on someone if you don’t even know who that someone is?

So stop saying, start acting.
Please.

Who are you?

Customer centric. Customer focus. I’ve heard it so many times, I’ve seen it written on dozens of business missions or as part of a brand’s values. Yet, I don’t believe it. Because quite frankly if you think about the business decision process within companies, which topics do you reckon come first on the list? Those about what the customer wants… or rather those about margin, reducing costs, maximizing revenue etc? And then you think maybe companies realize that as well, since we’re all buzzin’ about the consumer decision journey and stuff like that.

And let’s assume that companies really are customer centric. I wonder how they make it work, because simply put a lot of companies have no idea who their customers are. To illustrate this point I always show this little movie again: “The Break Up” (aka “Bring the love back”).

And I show it not so much for the reason it was created in 2007 but for this little bit where the advertiser replies to the consumer about not really knowing her:

“Know you? Sweetheart I know everything there is to know about you. You’re 28 … to 34, you’re online interests include music, movies and … laser hair removal. You have a modest but dependable disposable income. Am I the only one not getting the problem?”

That sounds about accurate. That sounds like how companies ‘know’ their customers indeed. So the point is, if you don’t really know who your customers are, how can you be customer centric? You can’t.

And that’s a huge issue of course. So it you really care about the full customer experience, you automatically care about who those customers really are. Thanks to research or just talking to them. Who are those people? What is keeping them up at night? What are their dreams? Etc. Companies do a lot of research to see how people feel about their brand, whereas they should research how people feel about themselves… and how they can affect that (dixit Lou Carbone).

Is ‘good enough’ the new black?

During the presentations of last night’s Mobile Monday in Brussels (#momobxl – tablet edition) it struck me how often businesses’ seem to work with a ‘good enough’ strategy. It came up during Corelio’s presentation on their mobile approach as well as during SBS’s presentation on the 2nd Screen (Tweede Scherm). The basic idea to create something fast and put it in users hands as soon as possible. Now I’m a big fan of an agile and iterative development approach, I don’t like ‘good enough’ though. Good enough means ‘almost good’ as in ‘mediocre’. How can that ever be a strategy?

‘Good enough’ is also not very inspirational, it’s not very ambitious. A point I wanted to convey during the Q&A session of the event but without success. The response was that (especially the Belgian market) is still very small when it comes to tablets and that we need to be careful with the investments we make. We also need to be careful with what we wish for, since the general public is trailing us geeks and therefore obviously not into digital like we are. Fair enough, but why is that an explanation of ‘good enough’?  The following analogy was made: “ we want to drive 300mph with a car and we’re only just figuring out what a car is, these things need time”. My take on that is that businesses (again especially in Belgium) are not dreaming of driving 300mph at all, they’re trying to drive a car the way they learned to ride a horse. In this case that means merely duplicating experiences on new platforms. And again, that’s still no reason for ‘good enough’.

It might be a Belgian thing, but I just don’t get it. I know, it’s a small country with limited reach and thus limited budget. But that’s no explanation on why things can’t be ambitious. What they can’t be great… instead of good enough. Dream big for god’s sake – “The bigger the statement, the bigger the idea, the bigger your brand will become” dixit Hugh MacLeod (‘the hughtrain’).

The value of an infographic

Infographics are the new black. Well maybe not, bet they sure are popular these days. And that’s too bad. It’s too bad because today it seems that every JPG including some data and pictures is an infographic. Every day at least one of those pops up in my reader and I don’t know what the name for those JPGs should be but we sure shouldn’t refer to them as infographics.

“The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures” Ben Shneiderman (1999)

So in case of infographics, if the visualization doesn’t enable you to have a clearer view on the information/data below, it’s pretty much worthless. Because if it doesn’t do that, it’s just another summation of data. Adding ‘clipart’ to it doesn’t change that fact. Manuel Lima did an interesting exercise to create an Information Visualization Manifesto which is worth reading.

“Form Follows Function. Form doesn’t follow data. Data is incongruent by nature. Form follows a purpose, and in the case of Information Visualization, Form follows Revelation. Take the simplest analogy of a wooden chair. Data represents all the different wooden components (seat, back, legs) that are then assembled according to an ultimate goal: to seat in the case of the chair, or to reveal and disclose in the case of Visualization. Form in both cases arises from the conjunction of the different building blocks, but it never conforms to them. It is only from the problem domain that we can ascertain if a layout may be better suited and easier to understand than others. Independently of the subject, the purpose should always be centered on explanation and unveiling, which in turn leads to discovery and insight.”

Keep on sharing those infographics, but stick to the real ones please. The ones that you can find on sites like +Datavisualization.ch. Everything else is a waste of time.