It’s Not About the Logo. It’s About the Experience

When you work day-in, day-out in, on or for a business, it’s easy to get caught up. After all, every working moment you are absorbing the brand experience, drinking the kool-aid, deflecting and spouting management-speak and trying that little bit harder to humanise the brand.

But what you end up with is the inside-out view.

And what we really need … what we crave, fear and yearn for is the opposite. The outside-in view is always a jolt to the system – because it impacts what we believe. It throws our own reality into our faces.

It’s why I love this video. Dozens of logos are shown to a five year old and her response is recorded. It’s classic outside-in.

But the thing that really stands out for me is not which brands she recognises. It’s that the ONLY logos she recognises are those that she can associate with an experience – an experience that she can recall and articulate.

THAT is what we should be working towards. It’s not about the logo. We need to make all that we do about the EXPERIENCE. That way your expensive design work will stand in reference for something. And that’s worth paying for.

What Qantas Will Learn from its Social Customers

Or an alternative title: What Qantas Will Learn from its Former Customers Because they are Social

I can still remember the smell of the lithographic duplicator machines that were used in my primary school. The light purple writing would hold that odour long after the ink dried. And one day – I think it was in 5th class – I remember learning about the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service. What today we call Qantas.

Back then – in the 1970s – school children would learn about Qantas as part of the school curriculum. We would read the teacher’s notes and then write neatly formed sentences into our brown paper covered school books. I dutifully etched red and brown pencil lines into my book, showing the shop and the sign over the Qantas booking office in Longreach. I was proud. I’d done a good job. And with every stroke of the pencil, I was also marking this brand deep into my psyche.

But over the weekend I watched the Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce – with the full support of his Board – trash one of Australia’s most loved brands. In grounding the entire domestic and international fleet, Joyce threw the travel and business plans of thousands into chaos – and those passengers reacted by tweeting in record numbers.


A usually quiet social brand, mentions of Qantas spiked on Saturday as the news of the groundings spread around the globe. The graph from Trendistic, when extended back 30, 90 and 180 days barely rises off the base line. And while mentions tailed off on Sunday and earlier today, mentions of the name Qantas are still ranking well beyond its normal zone. Jenni Beattie from Digital Democracy tracked the Qantas conversations across a number of other social platforms – from a Facebook protest page to off-brand forums like Golf and Vogue Fashion.

CEO Alan Joyce doesn’t appear concerned, stating in the Wall Street Journal “I think the Qantas brand is an amazingly resilient brand and we've gone through very significant industrial disputes before”. But for the Australian public, this wasn’t a matter of industrial relations – it was a matter of national pride. The actions of Joyce and the Board severed a bond of trust.

Now, much has changed since the 70s. OK – maybe not the trade unions that Joyce is arguing with. But the ticket buying, holiday making, business travelling customer that contributes to Qantas’ record breaking profits is a whole different beast. These are “social customers” and they are different. And brands – even brands as big as Qantas – no longer operate in isolation.

Essentially, your customers pwn your brand – and if they can’t, they go to where they can. This is especially the case with emotionally charged brands (and travel/holiday related brands certainly are). In the days and weeks ahead, Qantas will learn more about the social customer, including:

  • The social customer is ubiquitous: it’s not just Facebook or Twitter. They write blogs, publish stories and photographs. They share these with hundreds – if not thousands – of friends with the click of a mouse and a glare of disdain
  • The social customer wields influence with a swagger: they have grown up with the internet and have more tools at their disposal than you let through your firewall. They move fast and do so with intent. If they can impact the decisions of others (to not purchase with you) they will do so.
  • The social customer is not your friend: they don’t want a platitude and they won’t go quietly. They will remember your words and your actions and they will choose their purchases carefully and with deliberation.
  • The social customer is the 99%: they can smell inequity at a hundred paces. You’ve just given them a reason to chose another brand who understands their lifestyle and their priorities.
  • The social customer is developing a social conscience: it’s taken decades, but it is forming. Just take a look at the Edelman Trust Barometer. Brands will be judged by their actions.

What impact will this have? Here are some thoughts:

  • Long term brand value is impacted, causing re-evaluation of the Qantas credit rating
  • Fed up customers move to other carriers such as Virgin – impacting short term and mid term advanced bookings
  • New customers, aware of the disruption, steer away from Qantas towards competitors – or avoid Australian destinations altogether
  • The angriest of travellers contact their superannuation fund managers to remove Qantas from their super portfolios
  • Companies, reliant on travel, strengthen relationships with Qantas competitors

What else? Is there another impact coming? What else do you see?

Even in B2B You Have to Think Like a Rockstar

Business-to-business marketing can often appear dull and boring. The messaging is subdued, the social media is lacklustre and personality? What personality, right?

Now, there are always excuses here – government regulation, brand guidelines, tone of voice or particular assumed audience needs. But these are merely excuses – not reasons. We should instead see them as challenges – for to succeed in B2B marketing, I believe we need to think like rockstars.

How does this work? Mack Collier has put together a great deck on the subject of rockstar thinking. He calls out four key points – but let’s think about these in a B2B framework:

  1. Rockstars are fans too: remember, rockstars don’t necessarily love their own music. But they do have inspirations, musicians and artists they respect. Pay homage to your inspirations – learn from what they do and bring their work and focus into the work that you do.
  2. Rockstars shift control to fans: if you are a rockstar what do you like to do? Yep – hang out with other rockstars. Think about ways that you can elevate your advocates – and empower them in unexpected ways.
  3. Rockstars find the bigger idea: what mission are you on? How are you improving the lives of people. How are you changing the planet? What is the difference you are making. Sure you can throw money at a problem, but what can you DO to change the game. Think about it, then DO IT.
  4. Rockstars embrace their fans: in the B2B world there are many stakeholders. How do you celebrate them? What can you do to recognise their help and their efforts? How can you answer their questions faster? Think about stepping out from behind the shadow of your brand to provide unexpected value.

B2B can be exceptionally funky – and can prove a fertile opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking. Do you have examples? I’d love to hear of them!

Who Makes Snow?

Good copywriting is hard work – and hard to come by.

But this ad from National Australia Bank is a winner in my book. Some great visual storytelling – often in juxtaposition to the narrative – combined with sharp editing and a nice balance between landscape, industry and faces bring a warmth to the often bland branding associated with financial services.

What do you think? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Meh?

Via @acatinatree

The YouTube Creator Playbook is Your New Best Friend

If you are like me, you will have done some experimentation with YouTube. Sometimes it works – and sometimes you have to delete your video before the world catches it and you become an unintentional (or unwitting) viral star!

But while there is no doubt that YouTube is an important part of your marketing mix – the question remains – how do you maximise the benefits and value of YouTube within your marketing framework? And how do you do so with limited (or no) experience in the production of video? Finally – what are the best practices that you can follow in order to not present yourself in a way that is a detriment to your brand?

If this sounds like you, then the YouTube Creator Playbook may well become your best friend. Check it out – and then send me a link to your most embarrassing video! (Oh and you may need to click the button to open the playbook in a new window – the resizing is not kind)

The Brand Book – a Curiosity or Indispensible Guide

Brand books and style guidelines are curious beasts. In a way, they hark back to a time where brands operated in a strange ether – halfway between the world of business and consumer. They told us what the business wanted the brand to be.

Skittles Brand Book

Of course, they were often a great way to get up to speed for new people brought into the marketing team – or the agency. A good brand book (if one was to actually read and absorb it) was, in this way, invaluable.

But things have changed a great deal since I first saw my first brand book (funnily enough I think it was for IBM). If a brand really is in the hands, minds and conversations of your customers (or other stakeholders), what is the role of the brand book? Should it go beyond design and aspiration? Should it help to set the tone for brand engagement and conversation? And should it even be a “book”?

I’m not asking because I have the answers. I just have the questions. And I think that there’s much we need to revisit from a branding perspective. It seems that social media provided some new opportunities for brands and for branding, but we’ve only really scraped the surface. And in some cases, we coming full circle – using social media as broadcast rather than as a competitive differentiator.

Maybe we need to start with the brand book itself. Otherwise it’s just a curiosity – a remnant from a bygone era rather than an indispensible guide for maintaining relevance with our customers.

NAB to Banks – It’s About the Honesty

A couple of months ago, the National Australia Bank caused a stir in the financial services industry by encouraging the customers of other banks to “break up” with their bank. This weekend, NAB are taking it to a new level, running a series of social experiments on the subject of honesty – and publicising the results. Here’s a sample.

Apparently, Australians are an honest bunch – and the #honestaus campaign wants to bring that honesty to into the world of credit cards. What do you think? Is it a stunt or is it for real? Is that what we want from banks?

It sure makes a change from the staid, mechanistic communications I normally receive from my banks. And that’s the honest truth.

What Content Do You Post Where and When?

Once you have your strategy in place, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of publishing. It’s time to determine the types of content you will be producing and where and how you are going to publish it. It’s time to setup an editorial calendar.

But I don’t want you to think of an editorial calendar as a series of items which you post over time. I want you to think of an editorial calendar as a way of engaging your customers at different stages of your customer relationship. I want you to think about how you tie content to ROI – and to delivering value against your key performance indicators.

Take a look at the content grid chart below (hat tip toiLoveCharts). It is a great starting point for your content planning. Think particularly around the borders between elements. What kind of content will help your customers move from awareness to consideration? How can you brief and deliver your creative elements in such a way that they remove barriers for your customers moving from one stage to another?

And finally, find easy ways for your customers to engage and buy from you. Don’t make it too difficult. And once they buy once, make it easy to do so again. Help them talk about their brand experience. Encourage it. And remember, every little tweet is magic. Every Like can recommend. And sometimes the best branded content you can have is produced by someone else other than you.


Guest Post: It’s Not About the Method, It’s About the Message

Over the years, one particular question is starting to become the norm. "What's our message?" Ok, I would expect this question from a small business or a startup selling something like snail-flavoured crackers. They get an idea, they are passionate about the idea, and boom, they think the next step is for us to crank out a logo or website. Unfortunately they aren't the only ones tripping over this error.

Organizations pulling in 20 million in revenue have the same question. When we are brought in, as goal-oriented graphic designers, the goal should be presented. We should be the creative outlet to communicate the message for that goal, but so many times there is no message to communicate. These companies spend their time focusing on the platform they will use to deliver the message, but not the message itself. It's like choosing a method of transportation before knowing your destination. This may have been permissible when bigger marketing budgets meant more ads plastered everywhere and more revenue, but this doesn't fly anymore.

In a new global economy consumers are harder to attract, and naturally suspicious of your motives. In this market place, simply spewing out gorgeous designs won't do; I can pay anyone with Photoshop a few bucks and get that. We need to be more emotionally and culturally sensitive. Simply jumping on Twitter and Facebook, or creating a "viral" video won't do it, these were trendy at first, but they are quickly morphing into simple distribution channels like web sites, email or texting.

Companies need to press their marketing firms, design firms and other ad teams to focus on goals. As a designer, let me caution the Marketing VPs and Communication Directors out there: Your ad campaign message needs to be established independently of the method of communication. The design should be the very last step. It's not about the method, it's about the message.

Justin Brady is the quick-witted founder of Test of Time Design in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Future of Markets

A couple of times each year, about 4000 marketers at Fortune 1000 and Forbes Top 200 companies are surveyed about the future. This is the sixth in the series from

What’s encouraging to see is improvements in key business areas, including:

  • Overall optimism about the economy (while focused on the US economy, there are obvious flow-on effects for Australia and the rest of the world)
  • Customer interactions, including higher purchase volumes and better customer retention, are expected to improve
  • Broad financial and marketing KPIs are on the rise – indicating business confidence doesn’t just sit with marketing and brand
  • Marketers themselves will be in-demand with CMOs expecting to grow their teams by up to 50%

The report is very broad – which is great – but it means you will need to spend some time reading through and applying the data to your business. Think through your own strategic planning for 2011. Where are the correlations? Where are the differences? Why do they occur? Check, for example, slide 14 which investigates the top three reasons for growth strategy and see how closely they correspond to your own. Is there something you are missing? Is there something you can add to the execution of your marketing program this year? Can social media amplify this?

Most importantly, think about how your markets – your customers, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders – are moving. What are their futures. Use this information to make sure that those futures all intersect!