Creative Academy @ Golden Drum: Social Currency fuels Braveness & Creativity

Last week I was in Portorož (Slovenia) to give a presentation at 20th edition of the Golden Drum Awards. To this creative audience I wanted to show that the necessity of building social currency for brands calls for bravery and creativity and as such is a great opportunity for the business that we are in.

We know that we have a lot less control of what is being told about a brand today. In the world where we control messaging we need great storytelling, but that alone isn’t enough anymore. We also need to make sure we try to influence the part where we have no control: “giving people a story to tell to each other”. We believe it’s key for brands to do both.

Web_GoldenDrum

But too often today when you talk about influencing the uncontrolled part we end up quite immediately into social media content. When business discovered social media in 2005-2006 with blogging, it proved an interesting way to share opinion or backstages stories around a brand. In the better examples CEO’s would openly talk about their business once a week in a lengthy blogpost that would allow people to reply to. When LinkedIn but especially Facebook came along, more content (but smaller pieces) was needed for updates several times per week. And with Twitter brands are urged to posts several times a day. At the same time content became more visual, we all know (I hope) the importance of the visual web. This trend however has brands talk to us as we are all ignorant kids and to be honest, most ‘branded content’ is actually worse than the 30″ commercial that so many hate.

Managing the conversation is not the same as provoking the conversation. And we should have the tactical rules of social rule our decisions in developing content to provoke. We no only think you should provoke a conversation, it should result in a conversation worth remembering. As an example I give the campaign we created for ‘Stop The Traffik’. This campaign is approximately 2 years old and yet 1 month ago 2 million views were added to the video when Upworthy discovered it (again). And since the the conversation that came out of it is still as valid for the brand is it was at launch.

That brings us to social currency. You create that when you repeatedly created social objects. And as I’ve written before, with the social object, it’s not so much the object that is important as it is the conversations it triggered around it. My business card is a social object. Almost every time I hand it out people ask me what ‘Change Architect’ (my second role) means and by explaining that I already get a chance to explain why change is important for the agency and how that defines the work that we make.

So why then the necessity for bravery & creativity in building social currency? In my presentation I list 5 points:

  • Provocative insights
  • Surprise & entertain
  • Make it irreverent
  • Make it awesome
  • Let go

But remember, this is not a science so stay agile and adapt constantly while creating.

Photo credit Golden Drum

The big idea is dead. Long live the big idea

The big idea is dead. To quote Patricia McDonald in a recent Campaign article: “In recent years, the “big idea” has often seemed to epitomise everything wrong and backward-looking about our industry.” And that’s indeed true. In the traditional sense of a 360 campaign, the big idea was to be found in the 30″ commercial or a huge online activity and every other aspect of the campaign had to amplify that centre piece. The big idea was almost not much more than the ever so popular ‘key visual’, the one visual we can translate in all our media for one given campaign.

BigIdea360

It’s good that we most brands start to work differently these days. It’s good that brands start to understand that this idea of a 360 campaign all built around the one big idea isn’t the right way to operate. But as Patricia also highlights in her article, that doesn’t mean we should start thinking small. And therefore the big idea is still very much needed, only we think about something completely different today when talking about a big idea than when we talked about it a few years ago.

Today (and as a matter of fact we believe for the last few years already), that big idea is more of a central thought, a thought that allows you to develop a creative platform in which several small & big creative ideas can be found. It’s a thought that is based on a strong insight and for which the creatives feel the potential, a thought that offers a fertile ground to start creating. Because let’s be honest, ideas can be small and very beautiful or extremely big, bold and complex. But the overarching thought can only be big. It’s linked to the brand’s raison d’être, the link with the purpose and therefore the relevance of the brand in people’s lives.

Once this ‘big idea’ is defined, once we all agree on what that central thought or creative platform is that a brand needs, the quest for the ‘key visual’ becomes less important. It’ll help them understand for instance in the case of Nike that Nike+ as well as ‘Find your greatness’ can be part of the same campaign. In the olden days that would have been near to impossible since they would both feel like big ideas in the classic definition.

So maybe we shouldn’t be using the phrase ‘big idea’ anymore knowing that it has for long meant something else, something that we feel isn’t right anymore today. But whatever the phrase you come up with, let’s all agree that we shouldn’t start thinking small all of a sudden.

Image credit: Enver Atmaca

The opportunity called media

Traditional media are dead. Well at least according to plenty of opinion makers they are, and have been so for many years already. And while it’s fair to say that some of them are in trouble, or at least facing a whole new series of challenges it’s clear traditional media are far from dead. I actually believe some of the biggest opportunities in communications today are in media, but it is about time to see some action.

Here’s where I believe the biggest opportunities are today in media and why I believe I think there isn’t enough focus on them today. At least not where I live – and it would be dumb to believe that what happens in Belgium is unique in the world so here we go…

Invent new ways of monetization

Instead of using old ways of making money on new media approaches. Guillaume – one of the founders of the agency I work for – once said that banner advertising is what happens when you bring the worst of traditional advertising into digital media and it’s hard to disagree with that. You don’t have to throw away old rules that proved to be working fine with traditional media and their advertising methods, but they just don’t automatically apply to everything new either. When interactive television was announced (‘click the red button’) I had high hopes for the possibilities that it would give me as a consumer… just to find out after a couple of months that tv channels were charging the exact same price of an SMS to every single interaction possible. It became clear very quickly that they had a business going that they didn’t want to lose and that their innovative development was driven by the protection of that business rather than by re-thinking the user experience in this new context. Second screen, DVR, … with every new evolution the drive to protect the old seems to be focus number 1. That’s not how it should be, no innovation will come out of that. Think first about what how you could maximize the consumer experience given a new technology, and then think of (new) ways of making money with that.

Understanding second, third, … screen

Second screen is most of all linked to the television experience. Which is logical, although I wouldn’t make it something exclusive to television either. But that’s not the point I want to make here. There are plenty of second screen experiences available for television stations all over the world as we speak, and yet most of them seem to resolve around taking some kind of advantage of the Twitter activity around the show, possibly combined with some additional content. Other kinds of interaction? Not so much. I find that amazing, especially because there are examples out there of really cool ideas on how to use the second, third,… screen(s) available.

I’ve written about this before, but Kevin Slavin has probably said some of the smartest things I’ve ever heard about this second screen experience. (He has said some of the smartest thing I have ever heard full stop.) Knowing that he is responsible for some of the coolest second screen (avant la lettre) cases ever, it’s silly no to listen to what he has to say. When he gave is presentation “Laughter from nowhere” some 18 months ago at the IAB Congress, he created a bit of a theoretic frame of what it is consumers are looking for concerning the ‘second screen’. People’s main focus is in the main screen, and you need to think about what additional info/activity you can provide that makes the first screen experience better, without asking for too much focus so it doesn’t stand in the way of the main experience. The Twitter chatter about a tv show is only one – and a really tiny – example of what that could be. Check out the case above, it’s 6 years old and still one of the most remarkable I’ve seen so far.

New ways of distribution

Newspapers are print, and have a website, and a mobile site. You tune in on a radio station with your radio, or via the website. You watch tv on your television or snippets via their website. That’s about it. The traditional way of consumption for all of these channels remains the most important, that’s where the money is made but it’s in decline. So we have to think about new ways of distribution. Again especially with television, opportunities are huge I think.

Why especially for television? Because we have only started to figure out how we can get content to consumers via other means. Today the cable provider (or similar) own most of that distribution and it is a bit of a love/hate relationship between tv channels and the distribution company in many countries. What I don’t get is why media aren’t looking at all these possibilities to bypass those distributors. Think about it: Xbox, Apple tv, Connected TV’s, … there are so many devices in people’s homes that you can use to distribute your content that I really don’t understand why none of the media I have access to are using these.

And it’s not alone for television. I can get the national newspapers on my iPad… and they are updated every day around midnight. For realtime updates I have to go the newspaper’s website. Makes sense to you? Not to me it doesn’t.

Build brands instead of channels

Almost every brand I have ever worked for dreams of using lots of traditional media to build its brand. It still seems the best way to get in front of a lot of people’s faces, the get a lot of attention at the same time. And maybe rightfully so, if used in the right way. Is it then such a big jump to say that this would mean that media brands should actually be the biggest brands then? They can use traditional media all the time, as much as they want, they are the media!

But we know they’re not. Could it be that that’s so because they are building channels more then they are building brands? I think that’s what’s going in. They all have a channel that works/worked really well, and some new ones that are still improving. So they keep the channel that works best, while investing little in the new ones. If they were building brands, and people would really choose for a strong media brand, wouldn’t you think the channel becomes less important? People would look for it and consume it the best way possible? I do think so.

Do you agree? Or maybe not? Or do you want to add an opportunity that you think I missed? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to open up the discussion around the topic.

Is technology slowing us down?

Seriously, is it? This might sound like a strange question from a technology early adopter and yet I believe this is a valid question. I realize that technology is actually fueling growth, opening up new opportunities and markets, giving access to consumers that were previously out of reach. It’s at the base of many new products and helps us connect with the world. But it also seems to be a burden, a barrier for many businesses in that same quest for growth. Every week I see decisions being taken – with clients, partners or friends – that are based upon technology and that should have been taken weeks, months or even years ago. Or even worse – decisions which we all know are wrong from the start, but where technology forces to do things in a certain way. This is just an observation but one I encounter too regularly to ignore. And I think these are the main reasons:

People can’t keep up. Being an early adopter for technology is one thing. It opens up opportunities if you are one, but it’s not really an issue for business when you’re not. The real problem with the rapid technology development is that this rhythm is very different than the business/marketing rhythm of many businesses. Even if they know which technology offers real opportunities, they haven’t got the means nor the organization to cope with that. On top of that the early adopters don’t care about that problem, they’re too busy being first with something new that it’s not their problem that the rest of the world can’t keep up. That is not the biggest issue though, the biggest issue is that business are seeing that the gap between the expected level of change and the ability to manage is is getting bigger by the year. And that that is largely related to technology. I didn’t  make that up, it was one of the key findings of the IBM CEO study.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

How to judge the expert’s expertise? At the introduction of new technology, experts are born. These experts range from people that have been researching about this new tech for the last x years to others who have read a lot about all this over the last few days/weeks/months. That makes them pretty different even though both will claim their expertise in similar ways and in both cases they will sound pretty knowledgeable to all people that are new to the topic. I’ve always found this a serious problem because everyone knows the importance of a good introduction to something new, and how hard it is to change people’s minds when that introduction wasn’t meeting expectations. You never get a second change to make a first impression.

Wrong decisions from the (recent) past. Maybe the worst reason of all. Companies often know that the technology decision they’re taking today is not the ideal one, but that earlier decisions and investments define the window in which they can decide. That’s really unfortunate of course, it’s like the perfect way to maneuver yourself out of competition. It’s also a very challenging one, because at the one hand you would suggest to make sure everything is researched properly before making a decision (to avoid things to turn out badly later) and yet we’re already being too slow to begin with. A big part of these decisions are platform decisions and I don’t think businesses need to take more time to decide, I do believe they need to approach platforms different compared to what they do now. More on that in a separate post.

Organizational hierarchy. There’s no better way to put this than with Putt’s Law below – this may be from 2006 but it’s still very much true today. Make sure you have the right people take the right part of the decision when it comes down to technology.

“Technology is dominated by 2 types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand.” Archibald Putt

Stratégies Gagnantes: Agile Planning

About a week ago I did a presentation at an event in Charleroi called “Stratégies Gagnantes” (which means as much as ‘Winning Strategies’) together with other speakers such as Michael Cawly (COO Ryanair), Nathalie Klein (Director Consumer Insights Coca-Cola), …I was asked to present about what I thought would contribute most towards winning strategies from a marketing point of view. This based on my experience in digital and specifically as Head of Digital at Duval Guillaume Modem, the agency I work for in Antwerp.

The topic I chose to talk about was ‘agile’, more specifically ‘agile planning’. We all know by now the world is changing, and it’s changing fast. So I didn’t want to go in to much about that, but instead focus on how we need to rethink the way we plan to cope with a situation that is always ‘in motion’. It was an easy choice to make since I’ve been fascinated about agile and about how we should use this thinking (that originates from the agile software development) into our business, into the way we think about planning for the future. Neil Perkin has written quite a few good posts about ‘agile thinking’ as key for anybody who wants to be more future proof. I’ve used some of his thoughts in this presentation.

In the presentation bring forward 4 ideas that need to be considered when thinking about introducing agile planning to your organisation:

  1. Ideas from anywhere: get out of the organization silos – idea generation happens best when people across all business lines get together
  2. Plan for the unknown: imagine what would be possible instead of solely relying on what you can deduct from past experience
  3. Measure to improve: instead of measure to report – make sure you get the learnings when you can still adapt
  4. Budget for change: make sure there’s time and money to make the change happen

Let me know what you think.

Stepping out of the App economy

Sometime late 2010 we started working on 2 rather big mobile projects and they made me think a lot more about apps and how our thinking for mobile is all about apps. Today mobile equals apps, and we are being dictated by the likes of Apple how we have to deal with that. So how big of an improvement the introduction of apps on mobile has been, I believe we limit our thinking by that same evolution, while it shouldn’t end there.

There’s no better way to experience the hassles one has to overcome when developing apps, then to develop your own (especially when the app is for the iPhone). And it was an article on TC about Disney that acquired an HTML5 game engine that got me thinking about this whole app approach. Smart move from Disney by the way. Bye bye appstores, let’s develop game experiences the way we like and let people pay what we think is right. And for multiple OS’s at the same time, all in one take. With Android gaining market share and also WM7 that will take it’s part of the cake at some point, HTML5 mobile web apps make it a lot easier to build experiences across OS’s and devices compared to today, and without all the appstore hassle. And if you go further, when you think about developing for mobile first instead of web and then mobile, I believe there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

But the Disney acquisition isn’t having any live results yet. I think the FT was the first really big one to have made a move to go for HTML5 and the last few days or weeks a few others seem to have followed. LinkedIn just released a pretty nice HTML5 experience for mobile and earlier this week Amazon launched a similar experience for their Kindle:

“It can do everything that a normal Kindle app can do, such as synchronize your library, your last page read and bookmarks. Yet, the Kindle Cloud Reader is more of a reaction to the draconian app store rules instituted by the Cupertino giant than it is a dynamic new version of Kindle.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before those brand start pulling their apps from the appstore, or at least stop actively updating those in favor of native mobile web apps. I’m with Gigaom on this one when they say that Amazon might as well be showing media companies the future of the web with this one. Also sites as Twitter offer a rich and very nice mobile web experience, nothing like it used to be anymore.

I can only applaud brands moving in this direction and I believe that although the idea of apps on your mobile were a great innovation, they´re only a step towards a very rich mobile web experience. What´s your take?

Bonus link: HTML5 apps that are scaring the pants off Apple

The problem of the internal story

Yesterday Edelman organized a breakfast event together with The Centre for which they had Steve Rubel as guest speaker as well as Patrick Bosteels and Ramon Suarez as specialists at the table for further discussion. Steve’s presentation was interesting (as usual), there’s a good write up about it on Steve’s Posterous.

What struck me most however during the discussion afterwards is how all businesses are struggling with social media, in particular how they were struggling to make it work on an organizational level. A recurring problem that I’ve also noticed plenty of times with some of our own clients. What happens today is that many in the communications department have discovered social media and wish to make use of it. Be it thanks to agency advice, because of their own interest, due to pressure from above, … whatever the reason you see there’s an ask for building solid presence on social media.

In many cases this presence will include telling real stories from real people inside the company, no better way to show authenticity right? And that’s where lies the problem in my opinion. The communication department sees the opportunity of becoming more social, realizes that it cannot do it by themselves for 2 reasons:

  1. It involves the whole company, or at least most departments in the company. Make social media 1% of 100 people’s job instead of 100% of 1 man’s job – dixit Steve.
  2. The real stories are not with the communication department, they are with the people building the products, selling the services, meeting the clients, …

And although they are interlinked, I believe that most of what we’re trying to do today is trying to fix the first problem. I do believe the challenge with the second problem is bigger though, it’s more difficult to tackle.

Steve talked about the necessity to look at what motivates people in the organization to get them involved. Is it money, internal recognition, reviews, … Which button to push to get people to participate. I think that’s very true, but wonder if it can help with that second challenge. I’ve experienced with some small to very large enterprises that and the gap between the comms department who recognized the opportunity and realizes there’s plenty of content within company to be used to actually surfacing that content in a way that is sustainable is too big to overcome.

So how do you overcome that gap? How do you surface the internal stories that matter to your company? What’s your take?

Why hyperlocal is not yet hyper relevant

Hyperlocal is a hot topic these days. Especially for news media it seems to be where the future lies. You can either try to play a global role like The Guardian or Al Jazeera are doing with success, or find a way to be more locally relevant. And I believe the future of news for most publishers will be more local than it will be global. Because let’s face it, only when you publish in one of the world’s most spoken languages you can make a difference on a global scale. 

The problem with hyperlocal is that most people interpret it wrong. Currently the most common practice is to use geolocation, you either enter your postal code or the application/website defines your location based on GPS or IP settings. So you get news, offers, information related to where you are. Very efficient but when thinking about hyperlocal the opportunities are beyond that. 

The reason why is the following:

  1. I got many localities that are relevant for me.  I think about the place where I live, where I work, where I lived when I was young, … I have a bond with all these locations in a certain way so I’m interested in news from all these places and even other types of information. Today no-one is offering me a way to organize news gathering with this in mind. At best, like I mentioned before, you get that output for one of the chose locations, never for a mix of. Prove me otherwise.
  2. The range of interest centered around me can differ in size depending on the topic and the moment. What I mean with that is that when I’m looking to buy new furniture I’m probably okay with driving a bit further than when I want to get a pack of cigarettes, just to name something. Or when I want to buy a car versus when I’m looking for an accountant. This means for me the range you take into account when talking about hyperlocal needs to be quite a bit more subtle than it is today.
  3. Last but not least, hyperlocal doesn’t mean faits divers by default. The local version of my online newspaper tells me about a selection of the tiniest events I don’t care about in my city, but fails to mention when the Tour de France is passing by. Zooming in on hyperlocal seems to mean the same as zooming in on stuff that nobody cares about happening 2 blocks away. Why is that?

With more and more information, media being geotagged and with technologies that allow geofencing I hope that we’ll see an evolution in the way we deal with hyperlocal that takes the reasoning I wrote down into account.

Facebook goes offline!

For real. So the site is still up and running (don’t worry about that!) but it is clearly becoming a trend to bring some of the key Facebook characteristics to the real world. The examples below are perfect proof of that.

During summer Coca-Cola in Israel introduced “The Real Life Like. Together with Publicis E-dologic they figured out a way to embed user data in IDF bracelets, and thus allow people to “Like” real world objects, places and events spreading the word about it on their facebook accounts.

“The implemented these facebook-bracelets at the Coca Cola Village, a watersport, sunbathing, gameplaying amusement park activity-thing for teenagers. When the guests arrive, they are given a ‏ bracelet ID which transmits an RFID signal, which they program with their facebook login. They can then “like” activities and places in the real village, and their actions show up on facebook. Teenagers are driven by vanity like everyone else, so there was a photographer present as well, if you wanted to tag yourself in any given image all you had to do was wave your ID bracelet to the photographer.”

colalike

Probably sometime during the same period, Diesel introduced Facepark aka The Analog Version of Facebook as part of the Be Stupid campaign. Go outside, speak with actual humans ;) Definitely my favorite of all these examples btw, just watch the clip if you haven’t seen it before:

As part of that they also invented the Facebook Ass Status, no sign of that being used within my network yet though :)

The last example to pop up onto my screen is this one from Saatchi & Saatchi in Budapest: Taking Facebook to the streets for T-Mobile:

“At a busy downtown square in Budapest, they painted a Facebook wall(it was not an LCD screen). when users update messages on the online, they will manually place the messages with caricatures on this street wall.”

t-mobile-facebook

Not the most brilliant example if you ask me. Anyway, if you’ve seen other examples that would fit this trend, let me know in the comments.

The death of pretty much everything

In September ‘06 I wrote a post called ‘It’s violent out there’ in which I wondered why so many articles online are about companies and web services instantly declared dead when some competition appears. The recent ‘The Web is dead’ post of Wired inspired Harry McCracken of the Technologizer to highlight the same point as I did a few years ago, but much more visually. Enjoy.

“For years, once-vibrant technologies, products, and companies have been dropping like teenagers in a Freddy Krueger movie. Thank heavens that tech journalists have done such a good job of documenting the carnage as it happened. Without their diligent reporting, we might not be aware that the industry is pretty much an unrelenting bloodbath.”

dead