Before We Take Ourselves Too Seriously

I can be a serious sort of fellow. I can go on. Really I can. So sometimes it is important to find something that is a bit silly — that reminds us of the humour and joy of life. And my old friend, Luc, does just that with this post — watch the clip below and then read Luc’s story.

Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri on Vimeo

Now, while I really like the approach that Connected Ventures have taken, I do prefer something a little riskier. And as I thought about this, my mind raced to Rob Campbell’s foray into Marcus’ iPod Singing challenge which I have included for you below.

Your Business is an API

I was following a little link love and found myself over at BuzzMachine — where I have not been in some time. It is funny, but I do seem to go through phases where I will visit, read and comment on some blogs and not others … so it was good to check out Jeff Jarvis’ most recent posts and reacquaint myself with some of the most insightful thinking around.

One thing that struck me was the idea of looking at your business as an API (application programming interface — or techno speak for a way of letting different computer programs talk to each other). In many ways, this is what Web 2.0 is all about — focusing on the conversation NOT the technology — but again, it has profound implications for brands. As we make it easier for consumers/stakeholders to engage, play, experiment and immerse themselves in our brands, there will be trade-offs. Of course, one of the largest challenges is that we have to view our businesses and our brands as something that is NOT wholly within our control. This has probably always been the case.

But for all the talk about brands, conversation and so on … seeing your business as an API is a simple analogy that makes sense.

New Colour in the Box?

Originally uploaded by CC Chapman

So it seems that Crayon are consolidating their stranglehold on the world’s best digital talent with yesterday’s announcement that Greg Verdino AND Scott Monty will be joining the Crayon team as Chief Strategy Officer and Relationship Director respectively.

I am looking forward to seeing whether this new marketing experiment transforms into a digital steamroller and how much alternative agency thinking become standard practice for the Crayonistas. Makes for compelling viewing.

Good luck Greg and Scott!

Is Procrastination the Enemy of Ideas?

With all the storm related Internet problems hitting the east coast of Australia over the last week or two I have been feeling a little out of touch. So in a brief respite, I finally I got a chance to catch up with the provocative Marcus Brown and his blog. He points out a spirited conversation happening over at Rob Campbell’s blog on the need for agencies to reinvigorate their approach to ideas, ideation and briefing.

Rob’s initial post was about the importance of ideas and being committed to the ongoing nurturing of ideas over a long period of time — and how eventually that will lead to opportunity. The evidence for this is in Rob receiving an extraordinary brief — "From the ground up, create a motorbike [for country ‘X’] that will create mass consumer demand”. (Now that sounds like a GREAT project.)

But the commentary on this post took a dramatic turn, becoming a call for an Emergency Summit on actually putting new ideas into practice. As Marcus says:

It’s not about bravery, it’s about being able to do it. Literally being able to DO it and not hanging around in your six-sigma swim lane flow chart waiting for the “YES-NO” loop to finally get around to you.

The main theme that seems to be emerging is that there is too much talk, too much procrastination and not enough focus on using strategy as a driving force for change. So will there be a summit? Of course, I can’t wait to see this desire to manifest as an ACTUAL event … and will be checking Rob’s blog for news all this week.

BrandingWire: Coffee and a Story on the Boil

Bw_logo_no_tagmedIn this first BrandingWire post we are each looking at a fictitious marketing challenge — a family owned coffee company that is looking to grow. They have a good product but a poor brand — our challenge is to help the stakeholders ask the right questions about growing the business.

My view is that we need to start with the story (of course). What I will propose is not the development of a full marketing plan or a brand strategy, but an engagement strategy based on understanding those customers who have thus far fuelled the company’s growth. I want to understand the business (and brand’s) stakeholders — and to map the who, what, why and how of the business’ story.

Any family business that has been running for more than a couple of years is going to have a wealth of brand and personal stories available. What needs to happen is to begin delving into some of these stories in order to find their essence — the thing that rings true to the business, the family, the customers and the employees.

People and the brand (the WHO of your story): The important thing to do here is to talk and to listen. Talk to the people in the business, ask them what they think, what works and what doesn’t. Get them to speak from their heart. Talk to the oldest employees and the newest. Include the family. But also include a broader mix across the business — including suppliers and delivery drivers. Find out what is common and where the gaps are. Listen to the WAY that phase their words. Listen for the poetry. Be alert to the emotional resonances. Do the same for the customers — not in focus groups, but in the stores. Hang out. Eavesdrop. Ask.

Key themes and messages (the WHAT of your story): Now what have you learned? Can you distill all this down? Can you plot it on a graph? What is repeated and what is left out? Once you have some of these key themes and messages, you need to start to map these against the business strategy … make sure that you are spending your marketing dollars communicating with those who are most likely to buy from you. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? To be successful here you need to baseline, measure and test. You do so by assessing commitment.

Stakeholder commitment (the WHY of your story): We all work through various stages of commitment to things — brands, people, places and so on. At the heart of this is a decision — at some point we make a decision to commit. Now, this decision can be implicit or explicit, it can be conscious or unconscious … but it remains a decision nonetheless. By working through a series of commitment points for a given persona set, we can determine what kind of communications should be initiated and when.

Channels (the HOW of your story): Now of course you need to consider how best to reach all these idealised personas and the people behind them. This means that there are questions around media choice — and that means MONEY. Of course, one of the most cost effective channels is online and/or social media. But as I explained here, not all brands will benefit from a social media strategy. However, in this instance, there are obvious benefits — especially because there is a depth of lifestyle-oriented content that can quickly be developed and put into the marketplace.

Finally, the important thing is to START. Start small and do it fast — before you can frighten yourself. Measure the impact of each effort against your initial expectations. If you don’t succeed, change the plan. Tweak. Modify. Learn from the mistakes. Marketing is not an endgame — it is a way of initiating, enabling, extending and maintaining the relationships that allow a brand to thrive.

The Storm and Holiday Passes

I wish I had taken this photo!

For those of you watching the worldwide weather reports, you will know that the East Coast of Australia has been experiencing some fairly heavy storms over the last week (and more to come this week). This time last week I was a little concerned as I have some friends living in low lying farm lands in the Hunter Valley, and we knew they had to evacuate. Here in Sydney, while the weather was bad, it was not as dangerous as that. The only issue I had was lack of Internet access.

But in the scheme of things, there were no dramas.

I had planned to take a few days off and visit the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, and had been squirrelling away some blog posts with the aim of using Typepad’s cute "publish on" feature. I had used it before and it sort of works (though I am still to figure out whether the "time" is based on MY timezone or the server’s). BUT by the time I left for my brief holiday, my Internet connection was simply not working.

So now, over this weekend, I will edit and re-post some of the posts that I had saved up for you all. Unfortunately I missed the BrandingWire launch … but since it is done, I will still post it. And if you have not done so, check out the group’s efforts here. Simply excellent!

Oh, if you are wondering, I had a GREAT time away PLUS my friend who was evacuated was able to return to her home intact. Thanks for all the email in the meantime.

Value for money Re-defined…

Value for money Re-defined…
Originally uploaded by rajasree

As we continue to work on The Age of Conversation eBook, the more we have to think about the bigger picture. And we have to think about the basics … and sometimes the basics are the hardest to nail down.

For example, one of the pillars of marketing — price. How do we price a collaborative eBook that brings together a legion of great thinkers? Where does it sit in the pantheon of business books? Do we offer a hardcopy version?

All great questions … and if you have an opinion, we would love to hear it!

What would YOU be willing to pay for such a great piece of work — 100 viewpoints from 100 authors. REMEMBER … all proceeds go to charity.

Be sure to let Drew know your thoughts!

Politicians are Twits

Originally uploaded by timhtrain

Who says politicians don’t have a sense of humour?

Given that we have an election coming up this year, I was interested to see whether the Australian political parties have started to dig into social media tools. Sure enough, I found quite a few Twitter IDs… and whoever is setting these up seems to be having a bit of fun.

I particularly like Kevin Rudd’s profile whose bio states "Soon to be PM". In his follower list is Condi, The President, John Howard and Robert Mugabe.

However, I don’t know whether I want to join any of these as a "follower" — especially because they receive an email saying "Gavin wants to be your friend". Don’t know if I am willing to commit that far (ha ha). Enjoy!

Choir of Hard Knocks

Choir of Hard Knocks
Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

I have been watching a documentary over the past few weeks … and every episode amazes, astounds and drives me to tears. The documentary is called (and about) The Choir of Hard Knocks — and follows the process of bringing an eclectic group of disadvantaged and homeless people together to form a choir.

Johnathon Welch is the driving force behind the choir and he shows amazing focus and fantastic leadership skills. Along the way, Johnathon consistently sets new personal and group goals for the choir and each week you can see significant personal development and aspiration in members of the choir. But what drives the story … and it is an amazing story, is the network of human connections that begin to form in and around the choir. Even moreso, there are connections made during the street performances, by the the documentary and through the hearing of the music.

You can purchase the CD of their music here … and if you are in Melbourne you can see the choir perform live at the Melbourne Town Hall on 24 June 2007. You can make bookings here.

Eat.Sleep.Blog 3

Here is the third (and probably the best so far) in our series of online video hookups. Catch Sean Howard at his best, playing with ideas and humour at the same time, and see Paul McEnany in his last appearance as a single man (I am still thinking that he will return from Mexico with a wife). Special thanks to Sean (again) for working so hard to edit the file into something that is (mostly) comprehensible.


Eat, Sleep, Blog: Session 3 from craphammer on Vimeo