6th May 15
Posted in Uncategorized
People theorising about the future tend to fall into two camps: the “everything will stay the same-ers” and the “there’s massive change ahead-ers”. We youthful lot at BBH are no exception. When the APG asked the industry’s under 30s to finish the sentence “the future’s bright the future is…” for their Noisy Thinking event, one of us thought the answer would lie in what exists and the other thought that what exists would pretty rapidly evolve. To settle it, we asked a third person, but unhelpfully, he decided that his view sat exactly in the middle.
To save ourselves awkward coalition negotiation talks, we’re turning to you, readers, asking you to decide. In a general election blog post special, un-edited and uncensored are the three sides of the debate for your reading pleasure. Who would you vote for?
Melanie Arrow: Strategy Director and steadfast stay the same-er.
The future is so radically indeterminate, so fast changing, so different, so obtuse, so totally beyond our grasp that it can’t be planned for. Today’s under 18s code, they programme, they hardwire and they delete the phone app – because who uses phones as phones anymore anyway? In fact, somewhere between 40% and 65% of jobs that children in primary school will do in the future haven’t been invented yet. In short, let’s give up now.
But then, that’s not quite right is it? The future isn’t something to be viewed passively it is something to be invented. So, the real question for us Strategists is not what the future is, but how can strategy master it?
As I see it, strategy has one core strength – one role to rule them all, as it were – and it’s something I believe transcends now and future, no matter how complex that future is, because it represents something fundamentally true about the role of brands in our society.
Strategists make sense of the new, they narrate, articulate and contextualise. They distil and reduce. They simplify the complex and help brands to establish themselves as simple digestible, meaningful constructs in people’s lives. We sit on the precipice between technology and humanity, tethering what is changing (tech) to what never does (emotions, desires, feelings).
The key to our inventing the future, then, is the thing that has always made us strong: Answering how does this new thing help people? How can it entertain them? Why should they want to use it or be part of it? Because without making this connection back to humanity – technology and new things are nothing.
So, to finish the sentence “the future is bright, the future is…” well, in truth, I have no idea, but I would bet on strategy to be able to simplify it.
Lucian Trestler: Strategist and sincere somewhere in the middle-er
Orange, 1994 – ‘In the future, you wont change what you say, just how you say it.’
In the future a lot will be different BUT some things will be the same as they’ve always been. And some of these things will continue to be the fundamental tenets of planning. In my opinion, some of these things being;
Hard to believe this will become any less important.
What makes a great idea
‘At BBH we aim to deliver intelligence and magic. We don’t believe that an idea is great unless it’s delivered off the right strategy and we don’t consider a strategy worthwhile unless it leads to inspiring work. Intelligence AND magic are mutually reinforcing’.
Understanding this process will continue to lead to great ideas.
The art of creating power
Sir Lawrence Freedman defines strategy as the art of creating power. Notably, not a science. And in order to do this it must be continuous. It must carry on after you get punched in the mouth. Strategy (over planning) is ‘the evolution of the big idea through changing circumstances’. Changing circumstances being the operative phrase here.
“A brand cannot be distinctive if it is not consistent.” And communications will not increase a brand’s fame if they aren’t distinctive. Which is not great seeing as increasing brand fame is the most profitable objective for communications. And although this pattern is reflective of the findings of the marketing book du jour, ‘How Brands Grow’ by Byron Sharp, it is a pattern that has long been known by brands. Just look at the Catholic church.
In summary, what we have learnt will not one day become useless when some one proclaims that ‘X is dead’.
Quite the opposite.
In an uncertain future, knowing how to apply certainty will make strategy more valuable than ever.
Uncertainty + Certainty = Opportunity
Shib Hussain: Strategist and dedicated massively different-er
It’s expected that by 2020 more than seven billion people and businesses will be connected to the internet. In the face of so much change it would be foolish to assume that our clients businesses won’t change shape, some more radically than others.
The one’s setting the pace are already elevating their brands to offer more than their core product, becoming multi-layered businesses that service multiple customer needs in order to unlock further revenue opportunities and / or to lock them into said brand. Simply put they are becoming star shaped. A central brand proposition, surrounded by complimentary services.
It would be naive to assume every client business will move this way, of course this is much more suited to some business categories that others. We’ve all seen the Charmin toilet finder app after all.
Similarly to future facing clients, future facing agency models are becoming more star shaped too.
Gone are the days of silos such as ‘digital’, ‘crm’, ‘atl’ – agencies either add value across the full customer journey or they’ll lose out to competitors who are wise enough to see that an agency’s responsibility doesn’t start and end when the campaign / site/ app/ promotion is delivered.
This is something we’re seeing great success with at BBH, the full service mix is what clients need and want to service their complex (and often confusing) business models.
Finally it begs the question for staff.
What is the ideal agency staffer?
I’ve always been a hater of labels such as creative, planner or, worse, creative strategist.
In a world where ideas will be more complex and multi-layered, staff need to understand the whole value chain to and be able to create solutions that range from new service models through to tactical ads.
Sure, we’ll have specialist skills, but the future agency pioneers won’t take on silo’d tasks, they’ll be able to see identify the right problem and suggest the right solution, without defaulting to however their agency makes money – admit it, we’ve all been there.
So, what can we do prepare for this future where we’re expected to do more (probably for less) and with more stakeholders and more complex businesses?
I suggest hanging out with those you normally don’t in your agency. Make friends with tech. Have a coffee with UX. Go for lunch with the data analysts. You’re going to need those guys more and more going forward.
1st May 15
Posted in data
Author: Thomas Gwin, Data Strategy Director, BBH London
As the UK general election draws ever closer, many news organisations have picked up on the fact that political parties are using software to better understand voter audiences through data mining. Some are even going so far as to call this the “first true data driven election”.
Whilst much of the rhetoric in these news articles centres around how political parties are expertly using data as a secret weapon to seduce voters, the hidden truth of the matter is that whether considered through the lens of politics or marketing, the business of turning data into competitive advantage is a tricky one. And one that advertising knows only too well about.
Brands, of course have invested in sophisticated information systems to map, classify and prioritise target audiences for decades. Segmentations based on value, behaviour, attitudes, needs – you name it. More segmentations, and even segmentations of segmentations. Deeper and deeper insight, more and more powerful, but equally more and more fractured.
And at the heart of this lurks an internal tension between brand vision and audience understanding. The best strategists will know that these are not necessarily perfectly correlated, but will also know that ignoring either will result in compromise.
This same tension manifests itself in politics between political vision and voter understanding. But for politics, this tension arguably carries a far greater risk. To understand why, we must first return to how exactly parties are using data and what consequences one of these aspects could be having.
If the message is malleable, what does this say about a political party’s identity and values?
Data isn’t just providing political parties with insight, it is also allowing them to model voter intention and, crucially, provide them with the intelligence to adapt campaign messaging to individual profiles. For instance, what campaign message should Party A prioritise to conquest Party B voters who are potential “switchers”? Is it immigration, or is it the NHS?
This is not simply about maximising efficiencies (such as concentrating volunteer efforts on marginals or improving overall campaign targeting) – by adopting data, parties are also wading into the realm of predictive analytics.
Now in the world of marketing, Google suggest and Amazon recommended products are old news. With each passing day, evidence of organisations upping their marketing investment on initiatives like “intent-based” and “personalisation” accumulates. But in the less commercially agile world of politics, this is a huge step, directly imported from recent election campaign trends in the US.
But there is a vital difference here. Where brands use predictive analytics to (hopefully) better serve customers and be more useful, political parties can use predictive analytics to adapt their messaging to convert voter share.
But if the message is malleable, what does this say about a political party’s identity and values?
Some may say, this is nothing new. That politicians have always toyed with messaging and targeting at election time based on voter information, stretching the limits of how they can acceptably position big issues without contradicting party manifesto. And in a sense this is absolutely true. But what is also true is that the scale of intelligence now feeding these decisions is unprecedented. And the fact that this intelligence – so data lubricated and insight rich – is set against a backdrop of deep political disaffection, risks further aggravating public disillusionment with politicians and the political process.
Brands and parties alike have to adapt to people
Well if anything, brands understand the need for the brand idea, the long term, enduring vision that stems from a fundamental truth. Of course, this can and should flex with culture, but it must remain consistent. Otherwise consumers stop believing in you and stop trusting you.
Brands cannot remain static and endlessly pure – to the contrary, they are in a constant process of evolution, ebb and flow, plugged into the cultural zeitgeist which they tap into and also feed from.
And this does certainly not mean ignoring audience plurality, but it does mean that creating stand out aspirational stories that transcend differences is superior to developing powerful but micro-managed communication to suit heterogeneity.
The truth of the matter is that brands and parties alike have to adapt to people. But where the best brands are able to use data and predictive analytics to stay true to themselves and even better themselves, parties risk being perceived as selling out and losing the foundation values upon which they were built.
And the sharp, concise instrument that is data, with all of its clarity and processing muscle, is not alone able to solve this tension and afford parties the clear path they so desire to drive voters to the ballot box. At least not yet.
26th March 15
Posted in strategy
A couple of weeks back, I was invited to speak at the APG’s first Noisy Thinking event of 2015, inaugurating a series of talks on the subject of 21st Century Strategy. I was speaking alongside Neil Perkin of Only Dead Fish, Google Firestarters and soon Fraggl Fame, and Giles Rhys Jones from the start up revolutionising the world of location, What 3 Words.
Here’s a 2 minute summary of what I talked about. Or if you’ve got the luxury of a full 20 minutes, you can watch a video of the talk here and access other talks in the series, too!
1. In the 20th century, creative strategy was akin to (and often called) ‘planning’. It was about long-term, carefully thought-out and crafted, brand centric narratives. It left little room for experimentation, and failure wasn’t an option. In the world of military strategy, it was Napoleonian. Strategy was about establishing detailed battle plans – ahead of the battle. And in the world of navigation, it meant crafting itineraries ahead of every journey, detailing every twist and turn on the basis of a good map. It was often robust and visionary, but often also slow and heavy.
2. Then the digital revolution happened. Which meant two things. Firstly, the digitisation of every day life and purchase habits gives us an abundance of real-time data on what people actually do and what choices they make, and how initiatives are performing. Secondly, well, it’s a revolution – an on-going transformation of the consumer culture, economy, and media, which renders most previous knowledge of the terrain obsolete. We move from Napoleon battle plans to drone combat strategy – precise, short-term, reactive, ‘customer-centric’. The trusted A to Z becomes less relevant – as the geography is constantly changing, and we have new tools that enable us to orientate ourselves in the field.
3. But at which point does 21st Century Strategy become so tactical that it’s not even strategy any more? Some argue Big Data leads to total Un-Planning. If we know exactly what users do and want, and we have the ability to respond and optimise activity immediately and in market, what is the need for intermediaries? Well, maybe I’m just trying to justify my job title here – but that need is a need for purpose – vision, foresight, ambition. I agree with Alistair Croll’s diagnosis: an optimised life can just mean an average life. Ultimately, ‘relevant’ cannot trump ‘interesting’. And so there is still a role for 21st Century Strategy to fill in the gap between planning and tactics.
4. Technology and data have changed the way in which we do strategy, just like Citymapper changes the way people navigate cities. But as Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat would say (I think), ‘if you don’t know where you want to do, Google Maps will be of no use to you’. And arguably, a fast-changing, responsive working culture makes the need for purpose and direction even more poignant. When decisions are taken quickly, it’s crucial that everyone is very clear on what motivates them. In Basset and Partners’ documentary Briefly, released last year, Frank Gehry talks about the importance of the brief as ‘clarity of purpose’. You could substitute ‘brief’ for ‘strategy’ throughout the entire video, and it works.
5. An over-reliance on data is dangerous. If you never look up from your phone or develop a sense of direction, you will definitely end up lost at some point, and you will probably have missed out on a lot of interesting sights along the way. Without context, a data point is just a data point – and you don’t know where you are. More than ever, we need to be able to orientate ourselves in the wild. To maintain focus in times of changes. The more short term, fast paced and messy our environment becomes, the more we will need a framework to tell us where we are and where we are going.
6. So maybe 21st Century Strategy is the art of travelling without a map. It’s technical – using complex navigation instruments and diverse sets of information – AND instinctive at the same time. Strategists don’t like the word ‘AND’ – we like to sacrifice and focus. But in this instance, I don’t think we can chose any more. Nick Kendall recently argued for the importance of bigger, not smaller ideas in a world that would have us believe that brands have run out of juice. Similarly, I believe that the real strategic challenge today, is to hold the holistic view of the brand, the one that reconciles a granular, data-led, tactical view, with the visionary, brand-led, transformative one.
7. Travelling without a map requires you to maintain a sense of direction above and beyond individual changes and movements. It is the ability to piece together a multitude of isolated, sometimes ambiguous or contradictory tacks into one purposeful journey. Finally – and this is very important, if you ever find yourself in the actual wild without a map - 21st Century Strategy is the calm in the storm. Everyone’s initial reflex, at being somewhere new and confusing, or maybe in a place that resists mapping, will be to panic. Business people don’t naturally like risk, uncertainty or ambiguity, which is surprising because real people are full of it. So ultimately, the role of the strategist is to provide a sense of confidence and steadiness. Because 21st century strategy may not always know how it’s going to get there, but it knows exactly where it’s trying to go.
BBH will be represented again at the next event in April, dedicated to young creative people and what excites them about our industry, so expect to read more from BBH youths on the subject of 21st Century Strategy here.
18th March 15
Posted in sxsw
Authors; a crack team of roving reporters, on the ground in Austin, Tx
SXSW isn’t just about tacos, BBQ and Shiner and to ensure that the lucky BBHers who were out there knew that, we asked them to send us a quick note about the best thing they saw and heard in Austin. These are those brief, barely edited, dispatches from SXSW 2015.
So one of my favourite things about SXSW so far was not a talk, it was a dog. A St. Bernard in fact. When your phone battery was on its last legs, which let’s face it was all the f**king time, you could tweet the Saint Bernard and he would come find you. Damn, he didn’t bring brandy. Sad face. Instead, he brought a selection of phone chargers, adorably strapped around his neck. While your phone charged, you were fully licensed to pet his face off. Amazing.
Marc Rayson, Creative
I went to this great talk yesterday from a guy who has created Mogees, a new instrument lets users make music out of any object. He had the idea from thinking about how musicians have always ‘hacked’ their instruments. Think ‘scratching’ vinyls on turntables and using distortion through electric guitars – these things were never meant to be a function of the instrument but have become synonymous with dj-ng and made rock n roll.
So he created an instrument without any defined user experience so that the user could make up how they would like to play it, like a blank canvas. Watch some of the videos on his site of ways different people have used it. The kid ‘playing his stove’ is brilliant.
Samuel Bowden, Producer
Last night I saw a film called Hot Sugar’s Cold World which was a music doc about a guy called Hot Sugar who obsessively records every sound around him (even recording the silence at a funeral) and then makes them into sick tunes – he also talks about musical instruments becoming defunct and instead uses the outside world and his synth to make music.
Vaia Ikonomou, Assistant Producer
Four amazing men. Four poor life choices (by their own admission). Four stories about turning your life around. They all share one thing in common, which is that they have spent the majority of their early adult lives in prison. In the US there is little support for people in their position when they come out. The world had moved on, especially the world of technology that we take for granted. These men didn’t let that stop them becoming leaders of their community, businessmen, writers and mentors. Hearing how they motivated themselves to change and to teach others how to avoid their situation was one of the most moving moments of SXSW.
Search #Cut50 for more
Mark Whiteside, Global Operations Lead
I’ve just listened to Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s former Senior Advisor discuss the White House’s comms strategy with legendary news anchor Dan Rather. They both predicted that in 10 years time Snapchat will still be going strong but the nightly news will cease to exist.
The proliferation of media means the president today has to work harder than ever to reach his audience, and it’s only going to get more difficult.
The next presidential campaign is forecast to cost $4 billion and it will look very different to before. There’s always a new technology that rules every election. In 2008 it was Facebook, 2012 was Twitter, and in 2016 there’s a good chance it will be Meerkat!
Isobel Barnes, Team Director
From Marc Goodman I learned that as technology gets better and better it becomes more invasive in our lives. But this means that criminals have more and more ways to commit crimes, and bigger crimes too. Crimes used to be one on one acts, committed in a dark alley. Now it’s one on one million, committed in dark parts of the web. So as technology becomes ever more part of our lives we need to remember that means our lives are ever more accessible to criminals. Technology can also become party to a crime. In the future we’re going to have ‘Siri & Clyde’ as technology is asked questions it doesn’t have the conscience not to give an answer to, like ‘where do I bury a body’. So we need someone to step up and make security a more accessible, user friendly system to navigate. We need a Jonny Ives of security.
Sara Watson, Creative
The Unseen describe themselves as ‘an exploration collective’ who combine science with art, design and performance. Their talk was hosted by the collective’s founder, an English woman called Lauren Bowker, who believes that technology is magic and strives to create a world of seamlessly captivating science through exquisite couture and luxury products.
The most awe-inspiring product she shared with us was ‘Air’ (above) - a series of colour-changing hand crafted leather garments that change colour in response to environmental changes such as touch and wind.
Raphael Bitner, Strategist
11th March 15
Posted in sxsw
Author: Mel Exon, Managing Director BBH London and Co-Founder, BBH Labs
Keep Austin Weird … is a phrase you are probably going to see and hear a lot once you get to Texas.
In several lucky years of going to South By, it’s the best bit of advice that has stuck with me: Austin prides itself on being an island of culture, creativity and difference in an otherwise very conservative part of the USA. As a visitor, it’s your responsibility to avoid everything you recognise and dive into the stuff you don’t.
So it’s really tempting to hang out with loads of UK agency folk, get press ganged into drinks with your brethren, attend loads of talks about advertising, but I’d ditch all of that and go see a talk by an astro-physicist or a roboticist, eat pancakes, ribs and tacos exclusively*, go find a karaoke club in an underground car park, place a bet on Chicken Shit Bingo … and make sure you head to the Lustre Pearl for beers and shots, not the Hilton. Except maybe your first night when it’s just nice to see some familiar faces and hear what’s happened that day.
(*You can get vegetables when you’re back in England.)
My second bit of advice relates to choice, or rather the over supply of choice. SXSW has been a massive conference for years and years.. several floors of several rooms all showing talks and workshops simultaneously, now in several different locations all around Austin. It takes some getting used to, take a minute on the flight over to look at the whole schedule and pick some stuff you want to see.
Over the past few years the Interactive bit of SXSW, neatly sandwiched between Film and Music, has got incredibly popular with the UK marketing industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s got tame or lame, you’ve just got to work a bit harder to find stuff that’s genuinely different and worthwhile… BUT perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, I would avoid trucking all round Austin when it comes to going to talks, it takes ages and you waste tons of time shuttling between locations: only do that for something you hear is going to be amazing. The best talks are often under your nose in the main conference centre. Apart from seeking out the things you know nothing about, there are major keynotes not to miss every day, which often make headlines – for good or for bad – and are worth hearing. Bruce Sterling usually does a great closing keynote. If you don’t like a talk ten minutes in, you can get up and leave and try another one. Use Twitter to find out what people are enjoying most at any given time, most people tweet using #sxsw and #sxswi. If you’ve not done so already, make sure you set up a Whatsapp group IMMEDIATELY. Obviously.
Try to orientate yourself quickly around the conference centre early because it makes everything easier and don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you get lost (everyone gets lost, the whole time, this is normal).
Carry as little as possible. Get one of those mobile chargers for your phone. And use the abundant free wifi, or face the wrath of your office manager.
Eat from taco trucks as often as possible. Go to Salt Lick if you can arrange a bus out of town, or book a table at the Broken Spoke for line dancing and chicken in an odd white sauce. If you’re brave and your religion permits it, try a Baconator in a cone. Get a proper cocktail at The Driskill hotel. Old school.
I think that’s it. As you can tell, I’m two parts jealous and eight parts excited for you.
Have a whole load of fun, stay safe and come back with stories to share please.
27th January 15
Posted in attention
Author: Shib Hussain, Strategist, BBH London
The competition for user attention. (Image courtesy of College Humour)
Attention as a currency has long been discussed. It was brought to the mainstream by the work of Davenport and Becks in the aptly titled book, The Attention Economy. Everything (and now everyone) competes for your attention, however consumers only have a finite set of attention to ‘pay’ to all these competing messages.
Since The Attention Economy was written in 2001 much has changed.
The web has evolved, both in terms of volume and the medium through which it is delivered. Everything demands your attention, mobile competes with desktop, desktop competes with TV – and soon TV will compete with your wearable.
Since The Attention Economy was written in 2001 very little has changed!
A lot of brands are still taking an analogue approach to the web, both when designing experiences and sharing content. Putting the extended version of the ad on YouTube is a prime example of us not taking the lessons of the attention economy on board – there are few ads people want to watch, let alone watching a four minutes director’s cut. And yet we often see online as the opportunity to create longer content, breaking free from the shackles of a 30second TV spot.
Here’s two thoughts that may lead to an alternative approach:
Start with attention, not message
Understand how much time you have first before deciding how to craft the message/experience. Imagine working from a starting point that a user has to be able to completely customise a car in 20 seconds. This would flip the traditional approach of how a brief and the output is approached. Design would focus on maximising ease and speed – not the multiple messages that need communicating. The experience would be rooted in showing the core product story, not the marketing veneer. This leads nicely on to the next key point to consider….
Design for ‘the lazy consumer’
In the words of Stanford’s BJ Fogg, ‘we are designing for the lazy consumer’ (as opposed to brand advocates). This means we may need to sacrifice complex digital storytelling, for a simpler narrative.
Tinder comes to mind as a great example of designing for laziness, it makes finding a match quicker and easier. It chooses to sacrifice extra features and functions and simply focus on the core job a user is trying to complete – find a match. This sacrifice is reflected in the UX and importantly, the data input to begin with. Data input is the key. The onboarding of Tinder is designed for a lazy user. There’s little or no forms to complete and limited choices to make before the user gets to see matches. Dating sites as a category have over the years fallen to ‘feature creep’, adding more layers and therefore adding more complexity to the task.
Although these may seem like two simple things to do, they can easily be overlooked and too much focus put on the brand experience as opposed to consumer behaviour. Thinking about these may help move digital experiences into things that people find useful as opposed to time consuming, something that will be beneficial for all parties involved!
I’ll end it there, as I’m sure there are at least another 10 things screaming for your attention right now….that’s if you made it this far.
9th January 15
Posted in technology
In the January edition of Marketing Magazine BBH London Managing Director and Labs Co-Founder Mel Exon highlighted ten tech trends that marketers could be usefully thinking about for 2015. The original article appeared here on 07.01.15.
Another year, another slew of new technology jargon undoubtedly on its way to a tablet near you. With that in mind, here’s a handy set of ten technological themes for 2015 that may prove useful to marketers this year. Some may just emerge into our consciousness, others become noteworthy, whilst others start to take root in the mainstream.
1. Virtual Reality gets real
”This technology has peeled back a layer to reveal another universe” ~ Lawnmower Man (1992). There is currently no technology that has more potential to break new ground in creativity and communication than VR. In 2015, Oculus Rift, the company that has made most strides in this space, is due to launch a consumer product. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a ride.
2. ‘Handmade’ digital design
We’ve been mechanising things for so long, it’s probably high time we humanised things instead for a while. Look out for what Babak Parviz (the inventor of Google Glass, now at Amazon), is calling ‘handmade’ digital design, aided and abetted by the ongoing blur between off- and online worlds.
3. Mobile marketing steps up a gear
So we all know display ads are worse than inadequate and branded apps aren’t the solution to every mobile marketing task. Last year we talked about how Facebook’s re-tooled Atlas was set to make marketing across devices and to ‘real’ people work much more effectively, this year we’ll see that become a reality.
4. The mobile web gets a shot in the arm
Also helping us on our way: revealed at their Chrome Developer Summit in December, Google are making significant investments in improving the performance of mobile web apps, effectively taking steps to bring mobile web functionality up to par with that of native Android apps. Big news.
5. The rise, fall and rise again of wearables
With the Apple Watch fully on the market, promising to put to bed the issues associated with the category (concerns around privacy, sustainable use cases and how stylish they really are), wearables have a chance to move from a sideshow to the mainstream.
6. 3D Printing finds its purpose (for now)
‘3D printing’ has always sounded so goddamn good. But until we can print genuinely usable, mixed material products more cost effectively than we can buy via a regular (mass production or artisan) supplier, we will have to live with the fact 3D printing is still for the few.
7. Networking The Internet of Things
So far the ‘Internet of things’ has been limited to products – the likes of Nest, Hive, August (the smart lock) – that operate as standalone systems. The truly connected home will only happen when different products can connect with one another. We’re starting to see it happen – for example Nest Protect (fire and CO2 alarm) can trigger a flashing red light alarm on Lifx, the connected lighting system.
8. Proximity marketing moves even closer
As iBeacons get installed in retail outlets, bars and entertainment venues up and down the country we can expect to see proximity marketing grow from being an experiment at conferences to a bona fide marketing behaviour.
9. Social feedback loops spin ever faster
More connected devices and sensors available 24/7 will demand faster adaptation and shorter lead times to provide users with data-driven, hourly relevant activity. Global marketing organisations finally make the most of resource in different time zones: the brand that never sleeps.
10. Micro-targeting at scale
Once the preserve of US political parties attempting to tailor unique messages to sub groups of voters, brands like Coke (with ‘America The Beautiful’) and Budweiser are using Facebook to reach a series of smaller audiences with different angles on the same idea. In the process building to scale.
15th December 14
Posted in luxury
In his essay Software is Eating the World, Marc Andreesen listed a whole bunch of industries whose business models had been, were being or were about to be massively disrupted by digital technologies – from photography and music to retail, publishing, health and education. Missing from Andreesen’s extensive list was any mention of the art, fashion or luxury goods industries – businesses that traditionally have relied on mystique, scarcity and exclusivity to drive demand and protect margin.
And at the International New York Times Luxury Conference, held 10 days ago in Miami, disrupters were ably represented by will.i.am, skyping in from Manchester to talk about wearables, collaborations and how not to get screwed by the tech giants while 93-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel championed more traditional views, bemoaning the ‘great paucity of imagination’ exhibited today.
Things started amiably enough, with Francois-Henri Pinault declaring that technology could, should and would support and renew the way that luxury works. Citing innovation in manufacture and supply chain as well as commerce and retail as reasons to believe that tech and luxury could live in harmony, he then pointed out the elephant in the room; delivering consistent experience at scale is antithetical to the bespoke experiences demanded by luxury consumers. “There’s an emotional quality to luxury that can’t be sacrificed on the altar of innovation,” asserted Pinault.
This was a notion referred to again and again over the next 36 hours, and one that went unchallenged; “People have to yearn for things,” said Apfel, rather wonderfully. “How do we sell our watches? One by one,” said Francois-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet, who conceded that social media did have some usefulness in entertaining a new generation of luxury consumers, or perhaps the children of their traditional customers.
Technology is wonderful at reducing and removing friction – the market inefficiencies that hamper consumers from accessing the goods and services they desire. But in the luxury industry, friction is reframed as qualification, inefficiency as rarity. As new markets for luxury goods appear in the middle and far easts, creating an industry growing 4-6% to $307billion in 2015, there appeared to be little trepidation about the future among speakers and attendees at the INYT Luxury Conference. Of course, this is not to say that the luxury business has no use whatsoever for digital thinking, more that digital isn’t yet asking the difficult questions of luxury that have challenged other businesses.
So perhaps a different question worth asking is what can the digital industries learn from the world of luxury? A world where every interaction with a brand is carefully considered and crafted for a discerning customer. Why, so often, do digital experiences with brands feel undifferentiated, flat and templated? Shouldn’t we be thinking about treating our digital audiences like the discerning consumers they are? Perhaps the time is right for ‘handcrafted’ user-experience, bespoke digital design that makes every site visitor feel like the most important person in the world. Maybe we shouldn’t expect luxury to go digital, but instead demand that digital gets luxurious.
But as the luxury conference blended seamlessly into the spectacle that is Art Basel Miami, where some of the wealthiest people on the planet vied to buy some of the most expensive art on the market and attend the most exclusive parties happening on earth that week, it felt worth remembering that the star of the International New York Times Luxury Conference was a ninety-three year old woman who has never, ever googled herself.