For the Love of the Story

In marketing when we talk about “engagement” with an audience, what we really mean is that we want to create an emotional attachment with each and every person who comes into contact with our brand. This is challenging, because each and every person is different.

There are, however, a number of things that we can do to reframe the experience of our brands. Fundamental to this is understanding the “like me” aspect of human behaviour. It works in two ways:

  • Public image – we mark our belonging in the world by performing (living our lives in public) our allegiances over and over again. This is a continual external manifestation of who we want to “be” and is shown in the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the places we go and so on. It is the mark of the tribe.
  • Self image – our internal identification where we appropriate behaviours, brands, celebrities, music and a million other cues from the external world. These are then processed and internalised before being incorporated into our public image.

Of course, there are massive overlaps and interplays between these two aspects (and I am describing a simplified model of identity), however, it is also a useful way of understanding what Mike Arauz calls desire paths:

… we often mistake chaos for randomness. It isn’t. Underlying random events is Desire as an organising principle. What this means is that we seek out, attract and are attracted to things that gratify our desires. And in the process we unconsciously order our world and make decisions and choices that obey the laws of desire – not the laws of logic. It’s why we buy things like Alfa Romeo cars and Ducati motorbikes – not because we are smart, but because we feel compelled to.

Perhaps it is the emotional interplay between the self and public image that is really what we mean by the term “personal brand”.

But what happens when these two elements are out of alignment? What happens when our self image is at odds with our public image? What happens when what we say is betrayed by what we do?

Natalie Tran, the creator of CommunityChannel – Australia’s most subscribed YouTube channel – has put together this sketch parodying the judges of the reality TV show Britain’s Got Talent. This short piece explains exactly this phenomenon – from the celebrity point of view.

But the fascinating story – and one which Britain’s Got Talent is exploiting so well at present – is the way in which contestants are, through the show, bringing their public and self images into alignment before our very eyes. It happened with Susan Boyle. And it has happened again with 10 year old Hollie Steele.

It is classic storytelling. We have a beginning, middle and end. We have a challenge or opportunity, a hero and certainly a villain. There is a climax, a transformation and, of course, catharsis. More importantly, for the Britain’s Got Talent brand, it generates tremendous emotional connection with an audience. There is plenty that non-entertainment brands can learn from this sophisticated approach to storytelling – but the most compelling aspect is that it starts with ONE person – and without that one person, the rest fails.

60 Minute Brand Strategist – Limited Edition

“If you are not a brand, then you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner”.

This great quote from Philip Kotler at Kellogg School of Management should be top of mind in almost every business at present. When times are tough we naturally shrink a little. We curb our spending. Expect more for less. We pass on the angst and the pressure to our suppliers and contractors. But this process is a transactional process – it is not relational – it is typically what we would call “not personal” (as in “you didn’t get the business, sorry. It’s not personal”).

But in the business life of a brand – “personal” is EXACTLY what you want. You want to transform the transactional nature of your business so that every purchase decision that your customers make becomes PERSONAL. And this means trust. It means being social – and helping to facilitate social judgement.

It is the link between the potential of social media and brands – and something that I think, comes across clearly in this eBook by Idris Mootee. As Mark Hancock says, “it’s required reading”.

View more presentations from Idris Mootee.

An Optimistic Project

Glass half full, half empty?If you read the news, watch the TV or listen to the radio, there are boundless experts offering their advice on the state of the world. Clearly we are in the grip of a global economic crisis inflicted on the many by the greed of a few. Yes, we should be concerned about potential pandemics such as pig flu. And no doubt, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – not to mention the instability across central Africa, Israel, Fiji and a score of other nations – all make us feel a little less safe.

Yet despite the realities facing us all, there are individuals, small groups and even communities all working in their own way to transform situations. I am constantly astounded by the willingness, energy and commitment of people to do good things, to donate their skills, their abilities and their time for those that they love or who simply need help. And while our institutions continue to lag behind this progressive consensus, they too, are peopled by others “like us” – and will, at some point, have no choice but begin their own transformation. The question is just of timing.

Against this backdrop, I was invited by Ian Fitzpatrick to contribute to the Optimist Conspectus which is “a compendium of contemporary optimism, one perspective at a time”. You can read my view here, but there are many other brilliant perspectives, including Dirk Singer (read his blog too), Matt Moore (read his blog as well) and a host of others.

And I loved the grain of optimism in this from Nishad Ramachandran:

Coming from a nation that has more young people than old, more illiterates than literates, more needy than greedy you just got to believe that tomorrow will be better and that hope will ultimately triumph over gloom.

You can even add your perspective here. Or maybe that is being too

Social Media Club Sydney Kicks Off

Live from #smcsyd - pic on Twitpic

Last night 200-300 people squeezed into the Oxford Hotel in Darlinghurst to the first Social Media Club meeting here in Sydney.

Organised by Tiphereth Gloria, Doug Chapman, Heather Snodgrass, Cathie McGinn (along with a legion of helpers like Malkuth Damkar and @AngGraham) it featured two speakers on the topic of authenticity:

  • Adam Ferrier – Partner at Naked, spoke about the Witchery Man campaign
  • Leslie Nassar – the man behind the (fake) Twitter identity – StephenConroy – spoke about Telstra (his employer) and satire

Moderated by Tim Burrowes in an interview-style format, Adam shared his view of the Witchery Man campaign – taking questions, sharing statistics, plans and outcomes and, in the process, winning grudging respect from many in the audience. Some of the questions from the audience (live and via the Twitter backchannel) were evaded but many were answered head-on. It was only when the video case study of Witchery Man played that momentum flagged.

The interesting thread that linked what both Leslie and Adam spoke about was not authenticity, but narrative – storytelling and satire. And what was largely missing in the talks was a discussion of trust – except for brief flashes. As I have suggested previously, “authenticity is hard to fake – but we are easily swayed by a compelling story”. Both the Witchery Man campaign and Fake Stephen Conroy provided compelling stories. But for me, at least, trust trumps story.

With Fake Stephen Conroy, we –the viewers – were let into the game that was being masterminded by Leslie Nassar. With Witchery Man, that never happened. And the conditions under which the campaign may have unfolded, over time, were never allowed to develop. Perhaps this was intentional. Perhaps trust was never part of the agenda.

Whichever way, it was a rollicking start to the Social Media Club in Sydney. There was a huge crowd and a vibe that was closer to a party than a conference. I am looking forward to the next instalment.

Holy Cow, That’s Flash

There was a time when I loved Flash. It was a darling. It made my life easy. It did things easily that I could only ever dream of. It wowed my boss, made my clients gasp and made me look like a hero.

But over the last couple of years my love affair has diminished.

In the hands of a skilled and creative programmer, Flash can again, amaze us. In this video, Mrinal Wadhwa shows how a bitmap can be “read” by a webcam and interpreted as a 3D object by Flash.

Now, imagine how this can transform our perception, use and behaviour. Think about the way that we live our lives in public – and our fascination with technology. Consider the products that we love and that make our accelerated lives more manageable – and then think about how virtual transformation like this could be applied to your offerings – to your digital products and services.

For me, this sort of work taps into our imagination – reminds me of what it is to be astounded (nb: it is the future of your brand). Something that is all too easily forgotten in a spoon-fed, digital world. Long live creativity in all its forms.

Via Craig Cmehill.

Learning from Successful Corporate Blogging

In the consumer world, we look for innovation wherever it might be. It doesn’t matter that the latest mobile phone is only released and available in the US market – there will be Australians who bring one back, “crack” it for use here in Australia and then begin showing their friends.

We do the same thing for other consumer devices such as TiVos, video cameras (how many of those cool Flips have you seen?) and so on. We do the same with fashion (eg clothes or footwear).

But when it comes to business innovation, we seem to be much more conservative. As a result, despite the mainstreaming of social media, very few Australian corporations have yet to establish blogs – and even fewer have ventured into the social media wilderness beyond the blogosphere.

Yet, there are great examples and case studies emerging from overseas that demonstrate how social media can be applied to achieve business outcomes. One such example is Ford (whose efforts are being led by Scott Monty) – another is SAP (where I work).

Recently, the German American Business Association brought together a panel of business people who are using blogging and social media very successfully as part of their business strategy, including:

And in the best interests of the industry, the panel is sharing their insights and learnings. Enjoy!

FastBREAK Breakfast Event on May 8

Vibewire-invite-new Each Friday an eclectic group of curious folk gather at the Single Origin cafe in Surry Hills. We come together to talk ideas, advertising, social media and marketing. We come to share problems and to learn from the people who have become our friends. But most of all, we come to revel in each others’ company.

But on May 8, our coffee morning will be transformed. Rather than sitting around and talking, we will all be partaking in a special FastBREAK breakfast event. Part of Vibewire's e-Festival of Ideas (held in conjunction with the Australian Innovation Festival), the FastBREAK event features a number of Australia’s sharpest young innovators speaking on “the single biggest challenge of innovation”.

The starting point is on the Four Cs of Innovation – creativity, commercialisation, collaboration and connections. We are adding a Fifth C – conversation.

There will be five speakers with four minutes to open the debate. We will then all grab coffee and join the conversation with the speaker who most interests us (or as is more likely, wander from conversation to conversation, seeking out smart thinking and challenging ideas).

This great FREE event features:

Starting at 8:00am and running until 9:30am, this will be a great way to round out your week. Simply RSVP by emailing – and we’ll look for you at Westpac Place, 275 Kent Street, Sydney.

PLEASE NOTE: the venue has changed to Vibewire Enterprise Hub – 525 Harris Street Ultimo!

Places are limited, so put it into your diary NOW!

A Collection of Social Network Statistics

StatsStatistics are loved by marketers. It is as if they provide us with a sense that our art is based in science, that we can somehow use this real time, freshly harvested data to predict future patterns of consumer behaviour and that this, then, is the key to the executive suite.

Certainly, statistics are an important aspect of marketing, but they are not the be-all and end-all. They are merely indicators:

  • Improving reach indicates we are now able to interrupt even more people with our messages
  • Greater recall indicates that our repetitive messaging is seeping into the minds of our customers
  • Strong intention to buy indicates that people are still willing to lie to us because that’s what they think we want to hear

But it is amazing what a little analysis will bring to the data. And this is really what is valuable to marketers – data-based analysis.

Earlier this year, with this in mind, Jeremiah Owyang pulled together a great list of social network related statistics for 2009. Take a look at his full post, and at the corresponding statistics he compiled for 2008.

One of the references Jeremiah makes is to the TechCrunch coverage of ComScore’s social network visitor statistics which showed that Facebook continued to grow.


But only a month later, Cnet publishes this list showing that Twitter had catapulted into third spot behind Facebook and MySpace.


Clearly this is what we mean when we say that it is hard to remain relevant (or to claim “expertise”) when the landscape in which digital strategists, planners, and marketers operate continues to shift. Throw the odd celebrity endorsement into the equation and you are likely to see significant changes in these figures again (think Oprah and Ashton Kutcher) – as shown below.


But the underlying trend here is widespread adoption of social networking platforms. The spikes that we see in usage indicates that our attention and our interest is shifting away from the broadcast media channels and settling into spaces where we can connect with likeminds, converse with those who share our passions and find community and purpose around shared goals and causes. This is why, for brands and businesses, understanding the mechanisms of social judgement will become increasingly important – and why we will continue to need the services of smart folks who can interpret the data, the trends and deliver the types of actionable insight that will help us make business decisions. It’s common sense, really.

Get Creative. I Dare You

It is rare that we have the opportunity to unleash our creativity without reserve. There are always clients or bosses or editors sitting somewhere, waiting for something. There is always a risk.

But what if these barriers were removed? What if a social media experiment opened the door for your unfettered creativity? I talk about this in a post today over at MarketingProfs – but to whet your appetite, flip through this presentation and think about whether you dare, really, to get creative.

View more presentations from The Kaiser.