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.

Putting the You in YouTube

We all know that YouTube has become an internet powerhouse. It’s the one place that we spend more time on than Facebook, and it’s the world’s second largest search engine.

There are many more statistics and stories to tell in this interesting infographic from Filmora. But the most interesting thing – for me at least – is that the People & Blogs category has the most number of uploads of any category. With just over 40% of total uploads, it over three times larger than the next largest category (gaming).

And with 1 billion hours of YouTube watched per day, clearly we remain curious about the people we inhabit the Earth with. What is particularly interesting about this, is that there is no end in sight – no plateauing of data. We seem ever more interested in our own humanity and our creative endeavours.

Which makes me wonder about brands and businesses. When humanity and creativity are top of the agenda, how do you join the conversation?

 

Go #SocialFirst for Customer Care

Remember when “Digital First” was the marketing catch-cry? Or “Mobile First”?

Living in a world of constant change means that, as marketers, we have to continuously refine our approach. We need to test and tweak our messaging, adjust our spend and targeting, and reconsider and re-evaluate our technology stack. That’s right, increasingly, marketing is a tech game. The game of marketing, itself, has changed.

Recently, Qantas announced that Olivia Wirth will take on the role of Chief Customer Officer. This sees responsibility for the areas of customer and digital strategy being added to Wirth’s brand, marketing and corporate affairs portfolio. The reshuffle, puts Qantas at the vanguard of “Power Marketing” – where the head of marketing has responsibility for the end-to-end customer journey.

It also signals the arrival of customer care as a Board level conversation. A small scale survey of Conversocial customers revealed some interesting directions for social customer care. And while social customer care began slowly, it is gaining momentum with significant investments in social contact centre staffing, technology and process.  Social is the “low hanging fruit” of customer service channels because it is:

  • Direct
  • Responsive
  • Public.

The very fact that social customer care is public brings additional pressures and attention to customer care – which in the past has largely been a back-channel activity. Now, as it shifts to “front of house”, the manner in which you deal with your best – and your most difficult – customers, is on display for all to see.

Be Curious and Have a Point of View

In this always-connected, digital world, I often see and hear things that I agree with. Or disagree with. Some of this is deep content – articles or videos that take time to engage with. But some of the content is simple, cursory, scrollable. I can look at it and move on with barely a moment’s regard.

The thing is, however, that I HAVE had a regard.

Almost everything that I see elicits a decision response in my head. I am forever making judgement calls about every single piece of content that passes by. And not just online. The same applies offline.

On the surface, it would seem that the problem that we all face is inundation. Our minds and our experiences are so saturated with things to engage with that our senses have been dulled. Where once our senses were highly tuned to detect important things (threat, pleasure, opportunities), they now tune things out. We are dulled to our experience of the world right when the world offers so much.

If we look deeper, there is a way to short circuit all this.

We need to re-inspire our curiosity.

If you need a break, meditate. Pause and breath. Express gratitude. Look again at the world, a situation, the page or person in front of you, and be curious. Ask a question. Receive an answer with grace.

But most of all, take your curiosity and act on it. Have a point of view. Respond to the world you live in. Act, don’t react, and see how the world greets you differently.

Southern Rail UK Breathes Life Back into Social Media

Topics of conversation have become depressingly heavy across most social media channels. What with Brexit, Trumpmania, Climate Change and a general sense of dystopia pervading Twitter and Facebook, not even the #inspiration hashtag of Instagram can compete.

Years ago, when I worked on digital and promotional strategy for McDonald’s, we’d constantly return to the simple premise – what would it take to “surprise and delight” our customers? We would put this at the heart of each and every promotion.

From the surprise and delight, we’d then move onto “play”. We’d ask more simple questions:

  • How do we create or generate a sense of playfulness?
  • What does it mean to “play” with digital?
  • And how do we make this happen?

While exploring these topics, I developed a content marketing framework – PLAY. There are four main elements:

P — for power
L — for learning and curiosity
A — for adventure
Y — the yelp of surprise and delight.

Notice, we still have surprise and delight – but to make this work, you need more. You need to understand that great brands have and can wield power – to influence, engage and stimulate. But our customers have this agency too. We need to build adventure into our brand narratives and promote a sense of curiosity.

And all this comes down to great copy. Fabulous storytelling can change lives.

And a great example is “Eddie on Work Experience” with Southern Rail UK. Single handedly he is breathing life and energy into the @SouthernRailUK Twitter account. And it’s thrilling. And fun.

Imagine if you could do this with your brand.

Buzz Aldrin Gives No F***s

When you’ve been beyond Earth’s orbit, I expect you have a different view of the world, it’s people and it’s leaders. And as someone who has “the right stuff”, Buzz Aldrin, certainly can lay claim to having firm views and a sharp ability to analyse the data laid out before him.

Here he is providing Marcel Marceau level commentary on a speech by Donald Trump. It seems he has no poker face – and doesn’t care who knows it.