A Guerilla in the Garden?

Have you ever seen strange footprints in the garden? Ever wondered who left them … or why your garden or public space appears different from yesterday? Perhaps you have a guerilla in your garden.

The site (and nocturnal activities) are run and orchestrated by Richard Reynolds. I love the way that he uses web 2.0 technology to not only get his story out, but to allow that story to be ACTIVATED. For example, he uses Google Maps to show Guerilla Gardening locales and he uses the blog format to post news and information … and to gather his troops all around the world.

Russell Davies is right (as is often the case) … that having an idea is one thing, but the energy, ability and determination to make it happen is another thing altogether. And in Richard’s case it shows how strategic thinking can inform a strong, tactical campaign — see his press clippings as well as the actual number of people who have become involved with his project. It makes me think that 100 recorded acts of guerilla gardening will be only the beginning!

It is a shame that I have an unnaturally BLACK thumb (I have even killed a cactus!) otherwise I might just join up. But then again, even with my best efforts there may be some colour around for a day or two … plenty of time to give us all something to think about!


What if You Had to Pay?

Giveaways are great … they can create buzz, generate a lot of excitement and even (sometimes) help you achieve your business goals. But when it comes to trade shows and festivals, you need a much wider strategy to make your booth stand out from the crowd.
Seth Godin asks us all to think about what would make our efforts remarkable. But there is another question that we should also ask (leads partly to the same answer). What would you need to do if you charged ADMISSION? How would that change the way you think about your strategy? How would it affect your thinking?
And importantly, how would it change the way you think about your booth’s visitors?
Giveaways are fine, but use them as conversation starters!

PR and Web Popularity

Some time ago I read this great eBook by David Meerman Scott on The New Rules of PR. It is a great look at how strong PR can really drive your market engagement strategy. So what’s next — the ultimate MEASUREMENT tool that tracks your PR milestones against the volume of Google search requests. This tool is called Google Trends, and it is only going to become more and more useful over time.

Now, this is one way that you really will be able to see how much interest your PR is generating — and also reinforces the point that you need to be constantly releasing/publishing your stories.


Don’t Research Your Good Ideas

OK … I know you have heard me before on this … and really I should file this under RANT rather than the kindly "innovation", but I must agree with Seth Godin on the use of focus groups.

A focus group is not going to help you plot your way forward. They are not going to give you the answers to your serious business or marketing challenges. They may, at best, help knock some rough edges off your tactical efforts. They will answer your questions within the framework parameters that you specify — but if you want more from them, then you are wasting their time and your money.

There is NO shortage of good ideas, but there really is a shortage of capability in delivering upon them. Wherever you look you will find an endless conga line of consultants, marketers and agencies all vying for your attention. But can they deliver? Are they flexible enough to be able to change direction mid-stream? Save your research money and plough it into planning and implementation then be prepared to learn fast.

And leave focus groups to the dinosaurs.


Enough is enough!

IiDEANOLA alphabet S2

Some people like to throw a lot of ideas at a client, while others like to hone their ideas down to one or two — presenting only the best. But how often do we ask "when are too many ideas too much for a client"?

Russell Davies points out that perhaps we should be happy with our strategies, show faith in our approaches and show only the gold. This is based on a simple question — are you obtaining maximum value or are you hitting on a good approach and then committing to it? The former tends to show many options, yet always leaving clients unsatisfied, whereas the latter tends to generate stronger support with higher levels of commitment. Personally I like the settle on a good strategy approach (ie go for strategy happiness rather than strategy genius) and then go for it in implementation.

The challenge, of course, is client expectations — and we all know how difficult they can be to manage. What happens if your client expects to see 100 ideas? How do you talk them down? Can you put forward your two favourite ideas and a third weaker one — and if so, what happens when the client chooses "badly"?

Russell in turn points us to this great post by the Noisy Decent Graphics guy. I like the way he sums it up:

We have an internal rule to never present more than 3 ideas to a client. Any more than that is confusing. Any more than that and you haven’t read the brief properly. You certainly haven’t answered the brief properly. So, we say never present more than 3. But I can’t remember the last time we showed a client 3 ideas. Usually it’s 2 and more often than not it’s just 1.

It makes me think … the problem is not in creativity or ideation, but in implementation. We have plenty of ideas but how often do we get caught up in that world, rather than rapidly implementing, learning and improving?


Title: With thanks to the Spell with Flickr words folks.

How Smart Are China’s Kids?

As I struggled through day after day of greeting people in Mandarin (of which I know only a handful of words), I was constantly surprised by the number of kids who could speak with me in English.

Some of these Chinese kids are barely toddlers, yet can clearly say hello, thank you and goodbye in English. Some can hold long and complicated conversations. One eleven year old and one 14 year old that I met spoke English as good as I do (ok that is open to debate). Now I don’t know about you, but there are no kids that I know that can speak Mandarin.

China is obviously serious about engaging the West, and with Beijing 2008 just around the corner, there will be plenty of people going to visit and experience what China has to offer. But this is just the beginning … China is preparing to walk on the world’s stage, and its kids are the ones that will be leading the multinational businesses of the future. They are smart kids, interested and curious about the world … but they do NOT expect you to speak their language. Even my very few words would generate excited smiles and torrents of words I could not understand …

These kids are the ones putting in the extra effort to communicate … and they will do the same in everything else that they do.


The Happy Creative

It has been a while since I have been able to read a lot of blogs … there seem to be quite a few restrictions on blogs from within China — which means that the sites you are interested in may time out while you are waiting for them. So now that I am back there are plenty of posts to catch up on!

Where to begin? With a story, of course!

Back when I was a student and very interested in theatre, I was passionately interested in Romantic Literature … and particularly interested in the idea that melancholic ideas were stronger than happy ones. This is also reflected in news stories — the more horrific the headline, the more papers that are sold. As marketers this presents some challenges — we are team based, idea driven and have to please our clients before we even get to the consumer.

We are all naturally drawn to happy people (even though we may be intrigued by DOUR poets). And as this post from Russell Davies shows, being happy is good for innovation and creativity. In fact, it is essential for sustaining a high level of team performance. For example, the team I was with in China worked exceptionally well together, despite hardly knowing each other (and speaking multiple languages). We were able to overcome the stresses of long days, communication problems and a range of issues in and out of our control — by generating a strong and happy sense of engagement with each other.

At the end of one long day I was ready to stay in the hotel room. BUT I knew I couldn’t. I knew I had to take on the challenge and go out for a 2-3 hour dinner — I had to be open to the food and company that was on offer. So I went and shared crunchy jelly fish head, local beer and the company of my colleages — and found by shifting my own thinking that I was able to lift the spirits of my tired friends too.

The power of negativity is easy to fall into … but the energy of being positive is so much more fun!


Lost in Translation

RootedI am here at the Second International Animation Festival in Hangzhou, China, and everyday is an eye-opening adventure. The city itself is in the south of China, and rests at the edge of a lake. Westerners rarely visit here and it can be challenging to find your way around without help, so I pay particular attention to ANY English language that I see.

While wandering around the festival today I saw this interesting piece of translation. Something has been lost in this translation — I am sure the toys are not so bad!