Dear Tech: Let’s Do Better

We all want to believe in something larger than ourselves. We want to believe that our words, deeds and actions can make a difference in the world – what Steve Jobs described as “making a dent in the universe”.

But over the last decade, it feels like we have all been knuckling down, focusing on near term data – the next quarter, the month end numbers, the little things that allow us to scrape by week-by-week.

I’m not suggesting all these things are not important. After all, we do need to make our numbers, pay our rent, keep the wolves from the door.

But when did we give up on our dreams of creating a better place than the one we found ourselves in? When did the BIG picture become the landscape for our fears rather than our aspirations? Isn’t it time we re-evaluate?

If there is something that the last decade has taught us, it’s that complex change requires complex solutions. Sure, we can gravitate towards the simple slogan and an easy promise – but the simple truth is that change is hard. It requires effort. And that this future is already here.

The good thing is, is that we’re not alone in this. We have access to the best and brightest minds of our generation, right now. There are massive global corporations turning their attention to fundamental issues and a future that is full of opportunity not fear. It’s why I love this open letter from IBM.

Technology was the defining innovation of the 20th Century, and it looks to be continuing into the 21st. This open letter represents not just an invitation, but a call for participation. Together we can make a difference in the industries that employ our populations and provide purpose and work – like finance, retail, telecommunications and healthcare. But the same rings true for government, the environment and society. Technology has the potential to impact poverty, wellbeing, education and even champion data rights as human rights.

It’s possible. We’ve just got to expect more from technology and the people who work with and in it.

16 Tips for Your Next Trade Show

I have long been a fan of checklists. I have them for a whole range of marketing and project activities – from events to workshops, website and product launches to employee onboarding.

And while I often remember most of what needs to be done, there are some best practices – or nuances – that make a big difference to the outcome. More importantly, when something goes wrong (and we all know THAT never happens, right?), a checklist helps ensure that you cover all your bases while still dealing with any changes that occur on the fly.

Event driven marketing like trade shows bring a special kind of focus and pressure to your marketing team. There are logistics, design, coordination, briefings, customer experience flow, sign-ups, promo items and activations, construction, data collection, branding, sales process handoff and staffing considerations to balance – and that’s just in the leadup to the event!

This great infographic setups out 16 tips that you can easily follow to make your next trade show event a success. But what is it missing? What works for you that changes a good trade show to a great one? For me, it is cool team t-shirts. There really is something powerful about a t-shirt, logo or tag line that sets you apart (plus you can give some away as merchandise to the best leads).

trade show best practices infographic

When it Comes to Startups, Storytelling Make the Difference

When we build innovation teams, we always ask for skill diversity – we want hackers, hipsters, hustlers AND humanitarians all working together. It’s a magical combination of skills, perspectives and interests.

Often, however, we struggle to find enough marketers and sales people to contribute. 

Interestingly, it’s also something we often find in the makeup of early stage startups. Founders will seek out tech and product team members well before they seek out marketers. In fact, many founders spend a great deal of time and effort trying to find a tech co-founder.

But what of the marketing co-founder? Where are they and where can they be found?

Micah Rosenberg, writing for the Founder Collective, suggests however, that:

There’s no substitute for being a good story-teller. Often the reason one company raises capital more easily than another in the same general category, with the same general metrics, is that the founder is just a more compelling storyteller.

So perhaps the next best strategic hire for your startup is …

wait for it … 

wait for it …

someone who can give you a surprise ending.

Hacking Liveability in a Smart City

When it comes to city life, there are many dimensions to “liveability”. We can look at infrastructure and its impacts – like how long it takes for citizens to commute from home to their workplace. We can look at life expectancy. Or use of communal space. 

We can think about the future and how we’d like to provide alternatives to those long commute times by creating coworking spaces and using technology to empower employees. We can also think about the cultural landscape and what it takes to make a city a great place to live – and by “live” I don’t mean just “work”. Where are the artists? The musicians? What about spaces and opportunities for play and leisure? 

There is so much that goes into “liveability” and our lives are so connected these days, that we sometimes automatically jump to “tech” as a solution to everything. But is tech a solution to life – or is it the opposite?

Recently, Vibewire and the Liverpool City Council hosted a hackathon tackling the question of “liveability” as part of the Spark Festival. Over one weekend, students, business leaders, citizens and artists investigated what it might mean to make a city – like Liverpool – “liveable”. Here is what they discovered.

The Marketing Therapist

It’s interesting when I think back on it.

Years before I became an all-in marketer I worked in publishing. I honed my craft (and it felt very much like a craft), learned about as many aspects of the industry as possible and revelled in the thought that I was part of a profession that reached back centuries. Of course, one of the things that I did was to actively disrupt the very publishing tradition that I loved. But that is another story.

One of the first books that was given to me by my boss was Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It had been around for years, but I was assured it would play an important role in my professional life. And sure enough, my boss, the eagle-eyed publisher, Eve Ross, was right.

I started learning a different perspective immediately. I could read “influence” into many aspects of my work – from design and layout to the way I worked with authors. It changed small things about my ways of working and it changed my mindset in quite profound ways. And I still encourage my new team members to read it. I just ask them to read it with a creative mindset and thoughts on a future horizon (and how we will get there).

The infographic below captures some key insights that we can use to connect our work in marketing with the customer’s mindset. Some of the tactics are a little clunky, but with some creativity (and some A/B testing) you’ll find a happy medium.

What I have learned over the years is that psychology plays a major role in our lives – but also in our work. And if we think of ourselves as marketing therapists, you’ll go a long way to solving your customers and your clients challenges.

Now, just take a seat and tell me about your mother …

Why Design Matters

I have always loved colour and type. Even when I worked as an editor – where my focus was words – I was particularly interested in the way that design, typography, words and imagery could combine to create an amazing emotional and intellectual response.

Some of my interest here was intuitive, and some was studied. I worked to understand layout. I battled with ugly typefaces. And realised that there really are people who have a much better eye and feel for design than I do. But my efforts provided me with a deep appreciation.

These days, whether we like it or not, all of our work is in sales or marketing. Whether we are communicators, designers, business leaders or just starting out, we are all, always pitching. Always selling. Always communicating.

And with this in mind, it’s important to know a little about how design, colour and type all affect the story you are telling. Even if that story speaks to the unconscious mind of your audiences. This animated infographic from MDG Advertising lets you in on some of the secrets used by professional designers. Pay particular attention to the different ways that men and women react and interpret design and colour. It may just change your day.

Join Us for #CoffeeMornings in #Singapore this Friday

Update: it seems the very first #coffeemornings in #singapore has outgrown itself. We’ll now be at Pickleville, 140 Robinson Road – Level 4.

For over 10 years now, we have been hosting a meeting of various strategy, digital, social media, innovation and tech types each Friday morning in Sydney’s Surry Hills. We have seen the rise and transformation of marketing and social media as a niche topic to a mainstream – must-have. We have discussed the role of communications and activism, seen new apps and platforms come and go – and still we persist.

But it’s not always about the tech or the topics. It’s mostly about the people.

Now, we know that life is busy and that there’s every reason NOT to get up a little earlier to come along to meet with a table full of people you’ve never met (or maybe only see at conferences). But this Friday is different. This Friday, we’ll be in Singapore.

The plan is the same. All are welcome. We meet. Drink coffee. Talk. Find the wavelength and think about how we can all use our creativity, insight and generosity to plant some change in this world. We’d love for you to join us!

Where: Pickleville, 140 Robinson Road, Level 4
When: Friday, 18 May 2018
Time: From 8am
Getting there: Get directions.

Wait! How will I find you?

Check out my LinkedIn profile. I look like my photo – especially after I have had coffee.

Why are we in Singapore?

This week, Bryony Cole, CEO of FutureOfSex.org and I are hosting the first sextech hackthon in Asia. As Bryony explains, “In every society, there are undercurrents we don’t talk about. Sex is almost universally one of them. The ramifications of creating an unspoken culture around sex is that critical information on protection and health is also ignored or driven underground.” Imagine if there was a way to change lives through conversation (ie sounds like a communications challenge, right there!).

Hackathons are the perfect way of hosting and workshopping challenging topics – whether they are tech, social, business or cultural in nature. If you can’t make the hackathon, come along to coffee. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

 

Surprise and Delight: Sometimes Advertising Wins

I have to admit that most advertising bores me. It’s like watching a brochure being made. You know the point that is being made, understand the style and brand consistency, and wait for the call to action.

Now I also know how difficult it is to take a brief, design creative work to deliver against that brief and get the client to approve it (or more likely, the client’s boss). Then there’s the rework. Repositioning. Changes. Another cycle of approvals. On all sides, it can feel never-ending.

But what if all that creativity and energy could be channelled into into audacious storytelling? What if a creative team and a brand got behind a powerful concept and just went for it? Then maybe it would look like this. Disclaimer: I can only imagine the review and compliance checks that went on behind the scenes here. But bravo.

Putting the Tech into SexTech

“The condom was probably invented by a middle-aged man sitting in a well lit room.”

From pinpoint accurate insights, hackathons can deliver amazing products. And this was never more evident than in the recent SexTech Hackathon held in Sydney by FutureOfSex.org.

Now, the “future of sex” is likely to raise an eyebrow or two, but we know that the sex industry – especially in the category of leisure and pleasure – has long been heralded as an innovator. It’s just innovation that happens below the radar – but the truth is that emerging and disruptive technology from virtual reality and big data to cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and robotics find their first experiments in the dark ends of the web.

Now, under the banner of “SexTech” a new generation of entrepreneurs are bringing some of this innovation to light – bringing with it a renewed sense of purpose and understanding of what it means to be “human”.

At Australias’ first SexTech hackathon, the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the range of deep tech on display was breathtaking. Bringing together the hackers, hipsters and hustlers of the entrepreneur and startup community and combining them with the humanitarians – the sexologists, psychologists, UX, medical and academic experts – ensured that the solutions weren’t just human centred – they were deeply technical too.

So what does the Tech in SexTech actually look like?

To start with, SexTech – at least in this incarnation – was powerfully female driven. With around 100 participants, 90% of whom were women, this was a hackathon that attracted women with engineering, science, marketing, programming and design skills. Usually hackathons struggle to attract a gender diverse audience – but the design of the event, the positioning and the pre-hackathon engagement all worked to create a profoundly different experience.

The solutions, similarly, were equally diverse.

  • [IOT]: Voice controlled sex technology for people with a physical disability: The winners of the hackathon, AudioVibe, developed a voice activated, hands free vibrator and internet of things (iot) platform designed specifically for people with a physical disability. Working with leading local disability designers, the team validated and prototyped the underlying technology and proof of concept in just 36 hours.
  • [Machine learning]: Improving the sex life of couples with artificial intelligence: After a few years of being in a relationship, many couples experience a decline in their libido and sex life. In fact, around 50% of couples have a mismatch in their desire for sex. But what if an app could help partners easily signal interest – and receive tips, suggestions and more with the help of a virtual sexologist? The Ignite app used machine learning algorithms to identify dating and relationship best practices, sharing them through a chat bot interface. This, combined with “date night roulette” randomised tips helped couples broach the difficult subject that neither partner knew how to initiate.
  • [Mobile apps]: Gamification of online dating: The team behind Love & Consent sought to bring online dating to the gamer community. With a massive audience of casual gamers spread across the world, tapping into the accepted game behaviours – levelling up, in-game rewards etc – the team sought to transform the transactional nature of Tinder into more meaningful and safe encounters than offered by a bevy of “dick pics” and poorly worded profiles.
  • [Telehealth]: Connecting women with the right doctor for their sexual health needs: Dr Nikki Goldstein tackled the challenge faced by women across Australia seeking advice from sex positive physicians. Often inadequate medical advice is provided to women simply because they cannot find a doctor they feel comfortable discussing “uncomfortable issues” with. This solution combines a Tinder style profile and matching platform combined with a telehealth online conferencing solution to help ensure women anywhere can access reliable, quality medical advice.

Other solutions included optimised search engines, virtual reality and scientific condom packaging design driven by new approaches to 3D printing. But each of these required an understanding of deep tech built around very specific human moments and needs.

While in other parts of the technology world, solutions struggle to find the right way of bringing the human-computer interface together, the emerging SexTech industry seems to have found a unique way forward. And with Asia’s first SexTech Hackathon scheduled for May 2018 in Singapore, momentum is building around what is a burgeoning $30 billion market. One thing is certain – SexTech appears to be ground zero of human-technology interrelations – and every step into this emerging world is full of fascination.

Kindness is the new Transformation

I have always believed that trust is essential to create lasting change. No matter whether you are changing a business process, convincing a customer that your solution is the most useful, or introducing new technology to a large user base, trust is essential. The same applies to those who work in social justice, government and politics. It’s essential to the kind of work I do in marketing and innovation.

In fact, I’ve had a long term love affair with trust. I’ve written about it, developed frameworks for the way that trust works in social networks, and used it as a basis for many keynotes over the years. But trust is under pressure.

When the President of the United States can reel off policy announcements in 140 characters, it’s easy to see that we’ve switched from a 24-hour news cycle to a 24-second news cycle. Policy and government announcements which once took weeks of meticulous planning and execution are now thrown like content fodder into the scrap heap of the worlds’ news feeds, stoking passions but leaving us wondering whether there is substance, thought or strategy behind any of it.

And while it’s easy to be swayed by the immediacy of tweeted action, I also get a sense of a deeper hunger. Sure there are plenty of people willing to go with the flow and take every tweet at face value, but there’s a growing impatience with the superficiality of what has been passing as news, insight and policy. I’m pleased to see more focus on problems worth solving than ideas worth spreading. We are seeing this in the work that we do with companies and government organisations. We are seeing it in the work we do in social impact. And we are seeing it in movements like Pledge 1 Percent.

Underlying this resurgence, is a need to rebuild – and perhaps – reconstitute trust in the modern age. And I think we do this with kindness.

That’s why I like this deck from Leo Burnett. It’s a step in a new direction. And with any movement, that first step is what is needed.