On Generosity and Grace

I normally don't re-post articles that I write for the MarketingProfs Daily Fix, but I wanted to make sure that I shared this with you all. Generosity and grace is a topic that has been on my mind for some time – and something that goes, I think, to the heart of the transformation that we are seeing in consumer behaviour. It's also something that I touched on my post last night appealing to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to address the crisis faced by Sydney's Wayside Chapel

You see, social media – or what I am increasingly calling "participatory media" is not just about connecting. It's more active. It's more emotionally engaging than it appears from "the outside". It's COMPASSIONATE (more on this next week). It's about moving from emotion to thought to action within the blink of an eye, the click of a mouse and the shaking of a hand. It's why I think it is the future of your brand. I'd love to hear your thoughts on generosity and grace:

We are marked each day by the casual collisions that are the artefacts of our existence. There are phone calls, messages and the relative anonymity of online interactions. And in the search for connection, communion or community, we thoughtlessly mistake message for meaning, words for action and interaction for friendship. It’s a confusion of intention – and we are the poorer for it.

When I began writing my blog I did so with no expectation of return. Like a long-dead star, I felt that I was emitting the weakest of signals with no hope of a destination. The gravity of my expectations was as light as utterance, each word or post marked only by the steam of my breath.

But over time an unexpected, slow kind of success appeared in my orbit. Each comment felt like a gift, each email a revelation, and each face emerged from the ether to reveal some other – living, breathing, longing being.

Through words, through ideas and by sharing stories we began to find each other – you and I. And each time we brushed past one another we each revealed, perhaps inadvertently, some secret or grain of truth. And yet in losing some small essence, rather than being diminished ,we grew. We prospered. Not in the way of casual connection, but in more mysterious ways – for we were encountering ourselves by way of grace.

The paradox, of course, is that with every gift of self, with the free transmission of what-is-mine to what-now-is-yours, our gravity expands. Such reality requires new thinking on all our parts. After all, who among us has not looked with envy on the success of our peers? It’s as if the well-spring of success has only finite resources and each cup taken is a cup lost to us all.

But we are living now in a time and a space where both opportunity and results are being reconsidered. We are turning towards the hard face of generosity – where an act of grace is not just expected, but is a mandatory condition for a relationship to take root. We are mercenarily applying the judgement of our peers and their peers to the decisions that we make in business, as families and as individuals.

This does not mean that we are un-generous – quite the opposite. It means that your reputation precedes you. It means we act, not alone, but in cognitive unison. We’d like you to understand this. We’d like to help you make all our worlds better places. It starts by being generous. It starts with good grace.

Micro-transactions and Why Twitter Will Transform Your Brand

Oui je sais je suis grave...Over the last three months or so, there has been an amazing upsurge in the use of Twitter. This micro-blogging platform that allows you to broadcast to your personal network (and to the world) in short, 140 character blasts — has been growing at a phenomenal rate over the last 12 months — and seems set to continue its upward climb. In August last year, Mashable reported that Twitter had experienced a 422 percent growth in visitor numbers over the previous year — with 2.3 million web visitors. This, however, does not take into account those who access the service through third party applications such as Twirl or TweetDeck.

Read more on my article on this topic over at iMedia Asia.

Mortgage Lenders in Freefall?

As interest rates continue to drop here in Australia, many of us struggle to understand how a decrease in official interest rates are not passed on to borrowers in full. And while there are, no doubt, solid, economic reasons and explanations for this state of affairs, consumers tend to disregard such information, relying instead on emotions and “gut reactions”.

Don't PanicThis places financial services brands in an unenviable situation – not passing on rate cuts risks the ire of their customers – while passing on the reductions would further erode margins and shareholder returns. But as with any crisis, there are also opportunities.

I have looked on with dismay as one bank after another clumsily executes a so-called social media strategy. It has been disappointing because social media is, arguably, the most effective way for financial institutions to combat falling levels of consumer trust – if it is done well, that is. By aligning with its customers’ desire paths, banking brands can begin to experience the benefits that come with social judgement. Thus far, financial institutions have shown little understanding of these social processes – but the latest online campaign from the folks at Amnesia are helping Aussie Home Loans take a STEP in the right direction.

Building on the Aussie Guarantee TV campaign where a mortgage broker jumps from a plane in search of a home owner who needs a better deal, the FreeFall Challenge replaces the TV commercial actor with a real, authentic mortgage broker, Duane Brown. So, come April 6, Duane will be strapping on a parachute and a tandem skydiver and taking to the skies. Where will he land? Well, the answer to that question could win you $3000. In a digital form of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, you have the chance to mark Duane’s landing site on a Google Map.

Knowing Iain MacDonald’s and Heather Snodgrass' fondness for social objects theory, a digital campaign from Amnesia would not be complete without an in-built object. In this case, you can use codes that have been distributed by social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and blogs to improve your chances of winning the $3000 prize (try using ib2lW2). You can also check out Duane’s YouTube channel.

There is much to like in this campaign, but as Tim Burrowes points out in the comments to this article, this is still deploying social media from a channel point of view – with the entry codes acting as a social object designed to bring cohesion to the whole. However, it is, as Joel Pearson suggests, nice to see some experimentation happening – especially in an industry not known for it. Next time it would be great to see the digital and social media folks involved at a strategic level so that there is a greater level of integration.

Planning for Context over Planning for Placement

When we are looking to plan and execute a digital campaign, increasingly there is a need to look at not just WHERE we place our campaigns, but the context into which we place them. This is not just being driven by the rise of the “social web”, but by a transformation in the way that we view the relationships between agencies, clients and consumers.

In this interesting presentation by Don Epperson from Havas, he looks at the way in which their agency is transforming. In effect, they are following the model that has worked so well for Google.

By working from a single source of analytical data, Havas is able to aggregate a a whole lot of data based on actual behaviour. The trick is, rather than collecting data on a campaign level, the data warehouse captures information at a cookie level; meaning that the micro-transactions can be measured, tracked and aggregated. Then, by using an online advertising marketplace, the individual preferences of the people interacting with the system (banners/placements etc) can be auctioned to advertisers in a very granular way. This is what Don claims, is the agency of the future:

The agency of the future is going to act very much like the large ad networks today … we have to have scale in terms of reach, we have to be able to turn … data into knowledge …

All this, in turn (I am sure), feeds into their planning process – meaning that campaigns and activations become more targeted, more valuable to the consumer, and more meaningful to the client. It’s much like the potential on offer with Pure Profile.

As Matthew Mantey explains in this excellent post, Banners – Do They Work?, there is a mountain of data and insight to be found in even the simplest digital advertising campaign – so imagine what happens when you magnify this by a factor of 10, or 100, or 100,000:

Run one with even cursory tracking and analytics and you can find a mountain of insights.  Obviously click-based conversions is the unrealistic grail you'll see, but if you set a cookie window, you'll see all of the view-based actions as well.  You'll know the optimal exposure frequency level.  You'll see the search patterns, branded and unbranded.  You'll see format and message trends.  You'll see geographic detail.  And you'll probably find out that who you were targeting aren't the same demo that are interested in your stuff and coming to your site.

Is this the agency model of the future? Using technology to combine insight and targeted content within a permissible context sounds like the holy grail. The challenge would be putting the right pieces and partnerships together.

However, as I delve more into the concept of social judgement, I have a feeling that this sort of opportunity is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, taking this insight and opening it up to a social component during campaign activation could be where the REAL opportunity lies.

A Wii Kidsperience

When we talk about thinking "outside the box", or when we think of the "experience", this often means that we are trying to make a break with current types and modes of thinking. On the creative front, this means playing with expectation, changing the framing of a story, transforming a consumer’s sense of control or mastery. I often think about this in terms of the P-L-A-Y framework:

P — for Power

  • Demanding of attention 
  • Testing limits (boundaries around behaviour, responsibility etc) 
  • Controlling the controllable 
  • Belonging

L — for learning and curiosity

  • Skills development 
  • Negotiation

A — for adventure

  • Exploring an ever changing world 
  • Actively making the world a better place

Y — the yelp of surprise and delight

  • Recognition and reward 
  • Self expression

As brands continue to investigate the changing consumer and business landscape prompted by the ever-increasing adoption of social (and mobile) media, strategists need to also consider the idea of “kidsperience”.

Nintendo appear to be following a similar path in their efforts to differentiate their product in the highly competitive gaming console market. As Scott Weisbrod points out, Nintendo are in search of a Blue Ocean. His competitive strategy canvas shows exactly how the positioning is being planned. But the question remains – how does this play out in their branding and advertising works? Take a look here. NO … wait, really, click through – and then come back and share your thoughts. I am fascinated to know.

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The Effectiveness of Digital Branding

Chris Schaumann has put together this excellent presentation on digital branding, with a particular focus on the Asia region. There are some great statistics peppered throughout, including the fact that there is only an average 5% spend on Internet advertising in Asia Pacific (Australia maxing out at 12.2%). But when you consider that 65% of all marketing spend in 2007 had NO effect on consumers and that 86% of consumers don’t believe what brands say about THEMSELVES, then it starts to make sense.

Clearly, brands can no longer EFFECTIVELY represent themselves. And with 78% of consumers believing what "other consumers" say about brands, the rise of consumer generated content/comment/analysis will have an impact on the Future of Your Brand. I particularly like the way that Chris breaks down the "new marketing model" into:

  • Transactional marketing
  • Relationship marketing
  • Experiential marketing

But I would add a fourth element — conversational marketing. This is the marketing that is done ON YOUR BEHALF by consumers to other consumers. And while it is much less controllable, it is certainly "authentic". Will it bring the love back? Only time will tell.

Tip of the hat to Geert Desager.

In a Commodity Market, Good Design is Imperative

glassybabyThe problem with living in “internet time” is that the “new” very rapidly becomes commonplace. Think back 12 months. What websites were you visiting regularly? Which blogs? The velocity of change that haunts our everyday lives means that we are living with the ghosts of old applications that struggle to remain relevant to our ever shifting focus.

When I first looked at Tianamo I liked the interactivity that it offered around search. It was novel. Useful. But the razor-sharp mind of Greg Verdino punctured my enthusiasm — or rather, asked me to elaborate a little more:

@servantofchaos very cool but what do you think the practical application for 3d search visualization is?

My initial response was that 3D visual search has great application to structured data, especially within the enterprise … but there was something more. This approach offered something far more insightful.

For what 3D search does is bring good design (interaction, user interface, usability) to bear on what is now a commodity (albeit a very useful commodity). Take a quick look around at Tianamo and you will soon see that the relationships between data points can yield fascinating insight.

As new products and services accelerate through various adoption cycles, spiraling from awareness to adoption with exponential growth, the lustre of “the new” fades. Think about the term “Google” … which has entered the lexicon as a verb — we now Google <insert term>, rather than search for it. And with that ready acceptance comes user complacency. It is not that we don’t appreciate its value, it is simply providing an acceptable level of service. It fulfils our needs, but no longer astounds us.

However, the future of your brand is dependent upon good design. Good design will ask the restless questions — it will push you to examine the shifting patterns of consumer/participant behaviour. It will demand that you consider a variety of usage patterns. And it will prompt you to continuously deliver new value. And the fact that it will find hidden gold within the mountain of enterprise data is an added bonus. After all, it is still about surprise and delight.

The Yelp of Surprise

What happens when you see a great creative idea? Can you recognise it for what it is worth? Do you turn away? Do you get shivers, goosebumps or sweats? Does it make you smile or gasp? Any or all of these reactions (or more) indicate that an idea will deliver on the "Yelp of Surprise and Delight" that I discuss in the P-L-A-Y framework.

But, of course, the challenge is not just in the conception of such an idea. It must also follow-through in the execution. For TV that means, a myriad of challenges — setting, casting, script etc. For digital this is magnified — call to action, availability, timing …

Kathryn Schlieben has provided a great demonstration of how this can play out, with this video aimed at attracting the next Gordon Ramsay to the Caterer.com job portal (specialising in hospitality employment).

To deliver a knockout in terms of RESULTS for your brand, it is important to bring all this together in a unified, yet flexible strategy. The P-L-A-Y framework is definitely at work here … can you see the elements? And gasp! I certainly did.

7 Questions With … Me

If you are reading this blog, then chances are that you have come across the work of ethos3. They are known for building compelling, story-based presentations for folks like Guy Kawasaki and AMP. You can see, and vote for, some of their latest presentations in the Slideshare “World’s Best Presentation” competition (see below).

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Lori Williams from Ethos3. We looked deeply into the world of storytelling, presentations and the connection between the P-L-A-Y framework for brand engagement and its applicability in presentation storytelling. Hope you like it!

A Jurassic Experience

There is something about dinosaurs that captures our imaginations. Perhaps it is their scale, or their seeming impossibility. Perhaps there are remnant echoes buried deep in the human unconscious that reminds us that these great monsters once ruled the world we stamp so carelessly upon.

But what would happen if you came face-to-face with a dinosaur? Would your heart skip? Would your instincts overrule your rational responses? What is the story that you would tell? Luc Debaisieux describes such a situation:

Imagine you are visiting the Natural History Museum of LA with your kids. You take a gentle turn into a hallway and come face-to-face… this dinosaur, looking almost as alive as you and me. I love the reaction of the adult coming from another way who seems to really freak out because of the realism of little-big-dino-boy. That… is definitely some kind of an experience.

These days we talk about "traditional" agencies being dinosaurs. But perhaps they have only been sleeping and will awaken to remind us all of their power to tell stories, to surprise and delight and create truly unique, human responses.

Extinct, my ASS! from The Original Joe Fisher on Vimeo.