Late Night No Writing

Bush fire in Mt Kuring-gai
Originally uploaded by candiceecidnac.

Got caught in a massive traffic jam coming back into Sydney last night. The delays were caused by a bushfire burning on Sydney’s northern fringe … the fire had leapt across the freeway and had made it too dangerous to drive.

For those of you who don’t know Sydney, many people head north each weekend, driving about an hour or so to visit the beaches of the “Central Coast”. Unfortunately, all those who went away this weekend were caught by the bushfires on their return. Our delay meant that we took over four hours for a one and a half hour trip — and we left late to try and avoid the traffic! That meant there was no writing last night, and not much tonight … but I can sleep well knowing that the fires are well away from my home. Not everyone has the same luxury.

Wiggling your way to the top

  Wiggles & The Big Red Car 
  Originally uploaded by Bj74.

What makes a good brand great? What do you need to wiggle your way from the bottom of the pile to the very top? And how do you bring your audiences along with you?

Last year, The Wiggles were Australia’s highest earning entertainers. But they didn’t start at the top … they started in car parks, playing to four people. Find out a little more about the way that they built their brand in my article over at The Daily Fix (the feature article today, thanks Ann!).

Toot, toot, chugga, chugga!

Are Audiences too Smart?

  Look what my idiot husband did 
  Originally uploaded by luckycee.

With every passing year we think we become smarter. We get a new gadget, a new phone (sometimes we can’t tell the difference between the two), a new car, a new hair do and sometimes even a new body. We read more, learn more, study harder, work longer and balance our work and our "life". We "consume" media in ever new formats denoted by TLAs and order-in the food we are simply too tired to cook ourselves.

After writing this post on focus groups, I received some great comments and feedback. I also got a question that made me stop and think … KG asked:

Since MySpace, YouTube, blogs, and all 2.0 phenomena, have focus group participants become a little too media-savvy? Or too jaded because they’re constantly surrounded by media messages in their leisure time?

It’s a great question because it raises a number of other questions about the nature of our audiences, their analytic ability and their willingness to act. My view is this …

In that focus group participants are "supposed" to be representative of us lot, then we are really talking about the GP (general public). And you know, we might be interested in blogs, might write or read them, and sometimes even comment on them, but I don’t think that changes the fundamental drives that attract us to products and services. If anything, it makes us admire good marketing/sales more because we have some understanding of the techniques.

Having said that, I think we also are more short tempered. We don’t suffer fools or poor quality — we fast forward through ads or remove them via TiVo, we click away from those annoying interstitials (which agencies think they work anyway?) and find alternatives to YouTube when Google puts too many ads in feed.

Does this make us smarter or more savvy? Does it affect the sample? No … I think these changes are, to a degree, uniform — affecting more or less equally. And if we are all smarter or more tired or more overwhelmed, then it balances out.

BUT … KG also seems to be asking a hidden question — is marketing still effective? And the answer is yes — but a "qualified yes". Because we are more savvy, overwhelmed, tired and plain fed-up, and because we can now choose the timing, method and manner of our consumption of media, we are also changing the dynamic. We seek truthfulness and authenticity. We seek dialogue and engagement. And we also seek novelty and entertainment. This means that, as marketers, we need new tools to engage our audiences.

But remember, no matter HOW much smarter we are … there are still some of us who are going to tattoo our asses.

A Post for Sharon

  Go Home Lake Road 
  Originally uploaded by tegeer.

It is easy to get caught up in the blogosphere … you can quickly jump from one post to another, visit a new blog, begin commenting, think about a new post for your own site and, before you know it, it is way past your bed time.

Now I don’t normally discourage readers … especially the ones that are extra clever and also brave enough to leave a comment or two! But, Sharon, I want to support you in your goals. So go home.

Need a Lift?

Liftclub There are some people who seem to have abundant energy. Creativity oozes out of every pore. They tackle life and life’s challenges with generosity, excitement and genuine curiosity.

As I walked up the street yesterday I was presented with one of life’s gentlemen — Paul Bennett. You can’t miss him with his mane of silver hair, wide eyes and smiling face. After wishing me a happy new year he handed me a card … membership of his new Lift Club. Actually, it was more than membership — I am now a LIFT CAPTAIN.

Membership entitles you to openly converse with others while riding in a lift/elevator. On his site, you can learn the "rules" — promote friendship, create good energy, create a club environment and HAVE FUN!

Paul also provides ideas for lift games, provides questions to get people talking and engaging. AND if you are daring enough, you can take the PAVAROTTI challenge — invite your fellow lift travellers to sing with you. I am thinking of trying the Pavarotti challenge myself — but will only get a couple of bars done by the time I arrive at my destination. Probably best for my fellow lift captives (ahem … lift travellers).

All joking aside, this is a sensational way of openly breaking down some of the barriers that we allow between and amongst ourselves. Give it a go. Oh, and tell me how you went. Can you get anyone to sing with you?

Alien Contact

I don’t know why I have never done this before … but tonight I hooked up with my friend, Mindblob, all the way from outer space. I must admit there was something thrilling about actually speaking to somone for the first time — and now, of course, I just want to do more. And Skype makes it all so easy … and free!

We spoke briefly about his recent article which seems to capture some of the thinking that is circulating BSP-style at the moment about the need to re-imagine the agency structure. (Or perhaps, just re-imagine and re-position the power and authority structures within agencies.) If you have not seen Luc’s post, then make sure you do.

From there, take a look at where Marcus is going with a whole outsourcing argument … there is some excellent thinking around the practical challenges/consequences of business process outsourcing (for marketing) as well as the application of "best practices".

Meanwhile, Richard is hosting a passionate debate around the same topic but from a different perspective. He asks "Is blogging killing planning" … and has provoked some great comments from new and experienced planners as well as others outside the "plannersphere". One of my favourites is by Johnnie Moore whose blog just happens to be unavailable at present! Johnnie says: "I’m dismayed that anyone believes that by sharing their thinking people become more stupid". From memory, I think Johnnie has a post on this topic too, but can’t reference it at present.

Finally, my Sydney coffee morning comrade, Vando, deals out a slap or two with his post "Do Agencies Give a Shit?". Great and provocative reading for us all!

Oh, and speaking of coffee mornings, Coffee Queen, Emily Reed is hosting this Friday’s pre-work soiree at Strawberry X,
Cnr of Mary & Reservoir Streets, Surry Hills at 8am. Come one, come all … or you can just Skype me.


Kissy Kissy

  Just For Fun 
  Originally uploaded by Pumpkin Chief.

The MarketingProfs Book Club seems to be continuing to generate some great thinking and conversation, with Chief Book Worm, CK, hosting a tangent discussion on focus groups over on her own blog. There are some excellent points of view, so do make the effort to check out the main post as well as the commentary.
As you know there are no "right" answers in marketing … really it comes down to the using the tools, techniques and insights available to you within your budget. But my aversion to focus groups is not to do with whether they should be used or not, but more to do with the MANNER in which they are used.
A while ago I wrote this post which looked at using focus groups to drive innovation — it is entitled "Customers Don’t Innovate". I also linked to this post by Steve Cone which is very short, and leads with "You either know your business or you don’t". (And you know I love a provocative line.) And while I love the simplicity and frankness of this line … my lack of interest in focus groups does go a little deeper …
You see, I have a feeling, or perhaps an instinct, that focus groups serve us in ways that are a little unhealthy. We can structure the terms of reference, the questions and the approaches to yield the results that we want. We can even populate our focus groups with samples that are more or less "representative" than others. This can be consciously done or accidentally or unconsciously done.
And the members of the focus group are unlikely to yield the type of insight that they themselves would demand of a new product (see also Seth Godin for a more eloquent rant). As I said in my previous post:

… innovation is about future stories. Innovation doesn’t start with "once upon a time", it starts with "imagine if …".

I know that some people get a lot out of them, but focus groups just make me feel like I am kissing myself in the mirror — people love to watch, but in the end, it just leaves me cold.

Saturns Rings of Influence

Originally uploaded by SFindigo.

Just when I thought that Tim MasiGuy Jackson’s Saturn debacle had died down … Becky over at Customers Rock comes out with a GREAT thought provoking piece.

As a former Saturn fan, Becky bought into the whole tag line "A different kind of company. A different kind of car" (was that your work Mike?). But now, 15 years on, things are different. As Beckie says:

Bad customer service, as evidenced in this Saturn saga, will not only drive away existing customers, but through negative word-of-mouth, it will also drive away potential customers.

Anyone else taking this one on? You have got to love the web!

UPDATE: Sorry all … got Becky’s link wrong — this is the right one!

Don’t Click My Google Ads

So I am responding to a comment by my good friend Mike Wagner over the whole Bad Customer Service debacle foisted on Tim Jackson by GM Saturn when something catches my attention. Could it be? Yes … it is … unbelievable!
In one breath I am voicing my disapproval of Saturn, their brand and customer engagement strategy (employing zombies to deliver messages to their customers) … and in the next I am SPRUIKING their wares. Sure enough … there in my sidebar was an ad for the Saturn Vue (see it below).

So what ever you do, don’t click on the Google Ads in my sidebar.
OK … I promise I will try to let this one go now (or perhaps it is time to pass the baton to Angryman).