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Millions of users – is it a stepchange in social?

snapchatMy mum is moving house.  This means she’s going to chuck out a whole load of stuff from my and my siblings childhoods.  Some of it has to be rescued.  So I’ve recently taken home a huge box full of old photographs, looked through a few of them, got bored and stuck them in a similar cupboard to the one they’ve spent the last few years mouldering in. Read More

Have you had your Personal Inflection Point yet ?

SOCIETY-CLUB-0031The inflection point is the time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change.   Ex-chair of Intel Andrew Grove says “when a company faces an inflection point its future might literally be at stake – the proper response leads to sustained growth, while inappropriate reactions often lead to obsolescence.”

Our industry seems to be in a constant state of facing inflection points.  It is key to know which to react to in a strategic way and which to deal with tactically.  The real secret is to know when an inflection point is happening in the first place.  There are plenty of consultants that companies can hire who can advise a CEO in this.  My view is that the role of the CSO is to spot the inflection point before it happens and plan for a competitive advantage from it.  Read More

What would best (insert name here) do ?

westwoodThe unexpected highlight of last month at Cannes for me was Vivienne Westwood.  I was reviewing the winning work from Monday night on Tuesday morning to prepare for a curation of the best bits when I realised that WW was in the house courtesy of Sapient Nitro.

She brought the house down.  Partly due to her frankness and partly due to her spiky yet charming dismissal of any questions she didn’t want to answer. 

For example when asked what had inspired her to start her own business she didn’t hesitate to reply that she done it because her boyfriend needed money. 

This is less inspirational and more pragmatic.  She did come to inspire the audience though and set out to ask everyone to resist instant gratification and being “stuck in the present” with no historical perspective.

Westwood wants us all to stop and think about our culture, about “the pursuit of our perfection“.  According to Westwood we all have an inner “best self” and this, not authority figures nor celebrities, nor conforming to the norm should be the one to guide us. 

It’s a great thought.  We all indeed know the difference between our best self and our ordinary self.  The former can rise above our prejudices and look at the bigger, best, picture.

Look to your best self for your next decision.  Ask “what would best (insert your name here) do?”

Heroism is not about gender it is about skill and strength and just not giving up.

ironmanWhat were Disney T-shirts manufacturers thinking when they produced girls Avengers Assemble T-shirts with the logo “I need a hero” and boys T’s with the logo “Be a hero”?

Did they reference the 4000 years of patriarchy ways of working handbook ? 

And what was John Inverdale thinking with his comments about Marion Bartoli ?  I can’t help thinking that the other story around that story (as opposed to the casual sexism of the remark itself) is that no-one would have much cared if Inverdale had commented that Andy Murray wouldn’t have had much of a career as a catwalk model… least of all Murray.  The furore around the story is as much of a sexism story as the sexism itself. Read More

Connecting to people “formerly known as the audience”.

holodeckThis is BBC Digital Director Ralph Rivera’s view of the next stage of broadcast.  He says that internet native companies like Amazon and Facebook deal with people as individuals, not as a broad “audience” and that most TV programme makers don’t.  Read More

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

clintA few weeks ago I entered the hallowed premises of the Groucho club courtesy of IPC Media’s Lisa Batty.  Lisa runs a book club and she’d invited me, and top creative Dave Dye to talk about our books.  (Mine, Tell the Truth, was published last year. Dye’s on truth in advertising is due later this year.)

Lisa opened with champagne and a warm up for the select gathering.  “Tell us a hidden truth about yourself” she urged.  She opened with one about herself which once heard will never be forgotten and which can’t be repeated in a family blog. Read More

Don’t count your chickens in a 9 block grid

chicken gridThe 9 block grid is Jack Welch’s famous method for evaluating staff.  There are two criteria : Potential and Performance.  Those who excel at both are in the top right hand corner.  Those who fail at both are in the bottom left hand.  If you’re one of the three best blocks then you will be prepared for greater things and new roles.  If you’re in the bottom three then you’re on your way to intense training, or you’re on your way out the door.

It’s a widespread and revered way of assessing staff. 

I’m uncomfortable with it. Read More

What do you learn at an awayday?

Recent trailers for The Apprentice show the candidates organising corporate awaydays for “major clients”.  I’ve been to my fair share of awaydays over the years, several of which certainly had elements at least that might have been organised by people with similar levels of ambition and professionalism to those currently competing to go into business with Lord S. 

I still remember my first away day of course (don’t you always?).  It was in fact an away weekend where the participants were put into teams to compete in a role reversal contest.  We had a superb team leader, who did absolutely no work at all, but broke up fights amongst the very opinionated team members.  He also bonded us from the start.  The teams were announced at dinner on the opening evening.  Dave was announced as team leader, and then the names of the rest of us were read out.  None of us knew each other, but Dave went round, found us all, and tied a blue napkin round our arms. “We’re the Blue team,” he told us, “And we’re going to win.”

Which we did, but only after breaking the rules. Read More

The impact of directness

One cold dark night, in the closing years of the last century, I and a few brave colleagues (including Matt Mee, then an outdoor expert, now our Global CSO) took an unconventional approach to the marketing of the Converse All Star.  We projected the advertising,  guerrilla style, on to the exterior walls of major indie clubs across London.  It was a first, it was a great talking point, and it delivered good sales on a tiny budget.  We also had to switch venues quite quickly when the owner of the Forum came out and told us off – someone having neglected to obtain permission for the show.

I see that Kanye West has at last followed our lead.  The debut of his new single was on the walls of city buildings worldwide.  And it was announced on Twitter.  Where Kanye has roughly nine and a half million followers.  The single tweet received nineteen thousand plus retweets, and it was one of these that I picked up, although I will admit to missing the premiere at Stables Market Camden, less than a mile from our All Star projection all those years ago.  (Kanye’s projection also ran at other venues in London including Royal Opera House, on Brick Lane, in China Town, as well as in Paris, Berlin and of course all over the US).

To quote one of my colleagues, an expert in entertainment comms, “the Twitter reaction has been phenomenal”.

A successful example of the Artist’s, or indeed the Brand’s voice as the main communication channel.  The idea that we used in a small way for Converse is now a real actionable and accountable communication route for Kanye to enlist his fans as advocates and use them as a media channel.

Here’s another example from singer Demi Lovato.

On May 6, 2013, Lovato asked her Twitter followers to “unlock” the entire album by putting song titles in hashtags.   A special website was launched, displaying all the songs next to a clock that would turn as tweets would be sent. Once a song became a trending topic, its YouTube video was made available on VEVO. All the songs were unlocked within a couple of hours.

Once again the brand speaks directly to its audience. In fact, the audience and the brand couldn’t be closer in these two cases. 

The point isn’t that Kanye and Demi’ s marketing campaigns got them “earned” or “shared” media. The point is that they were absolutely honest and open with their audiences about what they wanted from them and why.

Kanye invites everyone to his premiere.  Demi asks fans to promote her songs.  The objectives of the campaigns are completely transparent to the audience. As are the benefits of getting involved.

No subtlety, it’s all out in the open –  and it has amazing impact.

A Total Eclipse of the Media Rationale ?

Britain’s Eurovision dreams have been dashed again.  No great surprise that Bonnie’s song came 19th out of 26.  That won’t have caused a total eclipse of the national heart.
What is a surprise is that academic research from a noted music college has conclusively proved that this is a perfectly fair and just result.  Denmark triumphed on merit alone.  European politics had no part in it. According to this recent research, there is no truth at all in the idea (widely believed over here) that the voting essentially involves friendly countries doing each other favours, while countries who may have thrown their military or diplomatic weight around in the past get treated less generously. Read More

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