Monthly Archives: November 2011

#WaterRun: For The Win-Win

Author: Mareka Carter, @marekacarter, Creative, BBH London

What’s #WaterRun?

Many people living in villages in Sub-Saharan Africa have to walk c. 5 km every day just to collect clean water.

#WaterRun is about running (or walking, if that’s more your thing) the same distance, our aim to raise enough money to build 30 new wells in the region.

5 km takes about an hour’s walk a day; for many of us it’s the equivalent of walking or running into work, instead of taking public transport – see what we did there?

Log your runs and donate here: If you’re a Water Runner, you could donate the money you’ve saved not using public transport, if you’re a Supporter you can donate, well, as much as you feel able.

It’s something for everyone, not just the creative and tech community: we’d love everyone’s Mum and Dad, Mom and Pop, Mama and Papa to get involved too.

Think of it as a win-win, ‘pre-tox’ cleanse before the debauchery of the holiday season kicks in – or, if you’re in the States, a quick post-Thanksgiving fitness drive – a chance to do some good towards others and yourself in the process.

Why are we doing this?

You will have seen news coverage of the widespread famine in East Africa and very possibly heard about the 50/50 project launched in response by our friends at Made by Many, hatched with Good for Nothing. If you haven’t: each project on the collaborative platform combines fund-raising with digital goodness, aiming to engage a network of supporters to help spread the word and generate as much money for as possible for UNICEF famine aid. Like our brothers and sisters at BBH NY, we knew we wanted in the moment we heard about it.

Those links again:

Log your runs and make a donation here:

Follow us on Twitter: @Water_Run, #WaterRun

Find us on Facebook here.

And check out the raft of other amazing initiatives for 50/50 here:

#WaterRun starts now, but you can join in whenever you want. Do it once, or you can do it every day for the next few weeks – it’s up to you. The main thing is to keep logging your distances on the super simple website and telling the world about it, so together we can send the total raised sky high.

Thank you. Happy Water Running!

Missing Texture

Wouldn’t it be nice to smell the internet? Well, thanks to the clever chaps at Mint Foundry this might soon be possible.Their concept product, the punningly named Olly (details at!) will convert tweets, checkins, likes or other digital notifications and blast out an arduino-powered whiff across your keyboard. So now every William Gibson tweet can smell like a long-chain monomer and every checkin at a Starbucks  like fresh roasted coffee. Sadly you will need two Olly’s to experience the double hit of Testosterone and Smug released whenever Piers Morgan tweets @Simon Cowell.

The interesting thing about the Olly is that it is an attempt to add texture to wholly digital experiences. A decent proportion of my last job was spent arguing with people about page-turning animations in ebooks – I felt that they were a legacy metaphor and had no place in a purely digital experience. There are definitely things about the physicality of a book that would be great to transfer to an ebook. For example, knowing when you are nearing the end of a book by the distribution of weight in your hands feels different from the knowledge that you are on page 1324 of 1346. Such additions would add both context and texture to the ereading experience, wheras the page-turning animation is texture without context.


Brett Victor’s much-discussed rant (his word) on the ubiquity of the finger-swipe in visions of future interfaces suggests a disquiet with what is being sacrificed in the quest for frictionless interaction. As touchscreens increasingly become our interface to the web it is healthy that there are those out there documenting what we are losing whilst everyone else, including us at BBH Labs of course, celebrates the gains. Will the sound of an optical drive go the way of the rotary phone dial or an analogue tape rewinding or these other disappearing noises?

So, are we adding textures such as smells and page-turning animations because digital is less sensuous than the physical world? When we create new digital experiences should we think about adding textured UX as well as intelligent UI? And as brands transition more and more to digital marketing initiatives, should we worry about what sensory experiences they and we are losing, out here in meatspace?

Update 9 jan 2012: If you want your workstation to smell like teen spirit every time @justinbieber presses ‘send’ then you should head over to kickstarter where there’s a month left to back the project to make the dream reality!

On/Off Relationships

Author: Sarah Eno (@enoism), Brand Planner, BBH Zag

It’s nearly impossible these days to conduct any relationship entirely offline. Professional relationships are managed on email, Linkedin, and blogs; brands develop robust relationships with us through online loyalty schemes; friendships are built and maintained through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name a few; and more and more people are meeting their romantic partners via online dating sites.

So I suppose I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised the other day when I came across a set of start-ups in the area of online relationship management for couples. These businesses claim to help us keep the spark alive, monitor our relationship health and generally be happier together by using their online services. Here are a couple in detail:

  • Tokii claims to be ‘the world’s first relationship management platform’ with a suite of products designed to ‘proactively improve relationships’. Couples can use the ‘tradingpost’ tool to trade things like washing the car for a backrub, monitor each others mood through the ‘moodmeter’ and spice up their relationship with fun, interactive games.
  • The Icebreak helps couples keep their love lives fresh and fun through a game-like platform where couples score points by sharing moments from their day, answering ‘icebreaker’ questions and working together to improve their relationship health.

In many ways, these businesses signal a natural progression to complete management of relationships online. If most of our relationships are blossoming online, why not throw our romantic ones into the digital world as well?

Whether I’d personally use the service or not (undecided, at best), I have to admire the Zag-like thinking behind these businesses. They’ve identified an opportunity area that appears ripe for brand invention – you can see how by looking at the idea through these three key principles of brand invention and innovation:

Principle #1. Meet a consumer need

If romance is blossoming online ( claims 1 in 5 relationships start through online dating), people will need a safe place for their relationship to develop digitally. Consumer need? Tick.

Principle #2. Go where the money is

Online dating is a growing business, as is the booming business of divorce. A digital service that helps keep the spark alive and maintain relationship health in the time between meeting and potential divorce could slot right in to this open space and scoop up all those struggling couples. Money? Tick.

Principle #3. Piggyback on existing behaviours

Self-tracking and the gamification of everyday activities are both hot behavioural trends currently connecting our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds. Tokii and The Icebreak both feature metrics and statistics that chart the health of your relationship over time and track improvement. They also reward you for improving your relationship with points and physical rewards, making working on your relationship like a game. Existing behaviours? Tick.

It’s not easy to find open spaces for brand invention and I’d argue that these two businesses have managed to do just that. Well done.

But perhaps there’s a bigger, moral question that has to be asked: There’s now a brand called Eulogy in the UK  which aims to bring death and mourning into the online/social sphere; there are countless online dating brands to help you find love; online brands help couples throughout the process of marriage counselling and divorce; and now we can manage our romances online too.

So, are there any areas of private life that should remain private and untouched by brands?

99% Attitude

Kotka @ Club Re, Krakow

Author: Nicky Vita (@stellavita), Strategy Director, BBH London

A few weeks ago, I was at the Temple Synagogue in Krakow’s historical Jewish district, Kazimeirz. It was the closing night for Unsound, an avant-garde music festival with the central theme of “Future Shock”.

As a whole, Unsound deliberately defies expectations – about how music should sound, how music genres should/ shouldn’t fit together, who should be collaborating, whom we expect to create modern music or art and even what ‘modern music’ actually means.

This – along with the music – got me thinking about a project I’ve been working on for client of ours, around ‘the lofty subject of human progress’ and what this means today. In a recent international survey, 96% of respondents agreed that‘It is important for me to continually improve as a person’. Ordinary people wanting to do extraordinary things.

While the desire to move forward is not new, the context or the approach required to achieve this has shifted radically. In the past, the key ingredients were focus, stamina and the wherewithal to keep slogging until the finish line. Tow the line.

And now? Well, there may not be a clearly defined ‘there’ or final end goal. There are fewer linear paths, one-way ladders and singular directions. The “tried & trusted” is no longer appropriate and all the rulebooks have been ripped up. Seemingly more than ever, people want to advance themselves. Technology is an especially great enabler. However, what you actually need to do to achieve this progress is less clear than ever before.

At a global level, this thought is either hugely terrifying or massively exciting. And what emerges is that the key to ‘success’ today is having the right attitude. Glancing at modern role models and entrepreneurs across the world, it isattitude that they have in common. No rules means you can try anything, explore everything, break things up and put them together in completely different ways.

Much of what I saw at Unsound reflected this attitude, so I thought I’d outline a few underlining principles for progressing in today’s modern world…

Retain a youthful mindset.

1960s pioneer Morton Subotnick & 1980s synth performers Chris & Cosey (ex-Throbbing Gristle) belonged at the festival as much as young, incoming acts such as Pontone (Poland) and Laurel Halo (USA). Curiosity, creativity and experimentation do not age.

Keep it open.

Music genres don’t sit in boxes. Or rather, amazing things can happen when you don’t assume that they should. Hype Williams threw together R & B, techno and dark ambient, coupled with constant strobe lights, to create a visceral, challenging performance. Trying different things and putting them together in unusual ways can create something special.

Lantern Awareness.
A wonderful term I picked up from Google’s Tom Uglow a while ago, speaking passionately about the wonderful things that could happen if we stopped focusing & opened up our awareness to the things going on around us. Every artist had taken a deliberate step away from his or her known individual sound and had nicked, borrowed or repurposed from the experiences around them. To capture this spirit, we’ve created team ‘Lantern Sessions’, as simple as a quick chat about the things that are exciting us or a good excuse to get out of the office and to an exhibition. Less focus creates more enhanced encounters.

Be bold.

With experimentation and exploration comes inherent risk. Some of what I saw and heard was massively improvised. Leyland Kirby’s mad video of his life on the road, wrapped up by a mimed rendition of Elton John’s ‘Can you feel the love tonight?” could have gone horribly wrong. It didn’t. Trying new things means allowing yourself to be at least a little open to potential failure.

Live in the moment.

For me, the entire festival was an immersive, immediate experience. This may sound obvious (being a music festival), but I came back feeling more excited about life because I’d allowed myself to be completely absorbed in an experience. If everyone there came away with this same feeling, you can feel confident that this will soon be manifested in a future performance, track or video. Soak up every encounter.

Go with your gut.

Everyone at Unsound was passionate about music. Not in a rational ‘let’s think about why this works’ way. It was much more of an emotional ‘how the music makes you feel’ way. Things were being put together in ways that were intuitive and based on gut impulses. Great things can happen when you go with the rhyme instead of the reason.

It’s about substance.

There were few ‘big names’ and while many of the artists were successful in their own right, at Unsound they were respected for their spirit, energy & experimentation in the moment. What you do matters more than what you have.

Act like an entrepreneur.

What makes an entrepreneur great is a bit of charisma. While many artists were there to perform, they were also there to create opportunities for future collaborations & endeavours, to show a difference side to themselves. Curiosity and a ‘can do, will do’ attitude is what made them interesting. Not so difficult is it?

The closing down party…

None of this might strike you as particularly groundbreaking. Steve Jobs spoke openly about the importance of connections, of being allowed to fail, of the opportunities that come up when you’ve tried different things. Einstein believed in experimentation and playfulness. Tom Uglow wondered what could happen if we all quit our jobs, played more and got closer to the edges. What is striking for me is that this attitude is shifting the way people think about progress at a universal level. This is not about the super elite, the super eclectic, the technologists at Google or Facebook or Labs, even. Sure, I am referencing some edgy artists, playing at a festival you’ve never have heard of. But we’re also talking about ordinary people wanting to apply this attitude to create extraordinary things.

I think it’s tremendously exhilarating. Can you even begin to imagine the great things that would happen, the progress that would come about if we all lived this way?

Searching for Sagacity

Author: Dan Harris (@gecko84), Social Media Manager, BBH Labs

Every day we use technology to find answers, from Google processing billions of searches, through to emailing colleagues or sending a question on twitter. We are increasingly relying on algorithms, communities and the fact that our colleague’s eyes may pass over our request at the right time.

On top of this, users have to contend with the filter bubble. This selective distribution of information based on a web user’s location, search history and previous clicks relies on a previous viewpoint and won’t necessarily reflect what somebody wants to know *now*.

This reliance on a fast digital response leads us away from existing relationships and habits and all too often we forget the value that can be provided by people with decades of experience, thoughts and stories. For example, when my ninety-four year old Grandad listens to my fairly trivial stresses and comes back with the maxim “You can only give it your best shot son” it resonates because I know he fought in World War II, worked for 40 years, opened a lodging house aged 60 and has been through plenty of loss and happiness.

Online searches may be able to supply the facts about historical events, but it will never be able to replicate the emotions and feelings of someone who was there and witnessed an event first hand or the personal delivery of that information. A status update asking for help is just as likely to illicit sarcastic responses as actual, useful advice. In fact, sometimes the best reply is sitting in a lonely old chap up in Scotland who is just waiting to be asked, whatever the question.

Hugmail is a partnership between BBH Zag and Touchnote, a British technology company whose aim is to bridge the increasing digital divide and making it easier for different generations to keep in touch.

That’s why Labs & Zag are excited to announce ‘Search for a Sage’, the hunt for Britain’s most interesting grandparent. We’re looking to find a great character that’s seen it all, with plenty of stories and a unique slant on life.

We’ll ask a Sage to answer the nation’s questions via regular webcasts and take it from there.  We want to put real wisdom on a pedestal in a place where modern society is likely to look for it.

So if you know a grandparent that fits the bill then send a nomination to

Our sage will be unveiled and start answering questions and laying down wisdom from 21st November.

Tale Torrent – The Prologue

Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH Labs

Preparations for our night of storytelling for Internet Week Europe are almost complete. And with less than a week to go until Thursday the 10th, we thought we’d share a little preview info of some of our speakers. Tales will include…

Simon Sanders – “Postcards ‘n’ mix-tapes, Skype ‘n’ status updates”
Creative Strategist /

Basheera Khan“Tales from the Crypt-ograph”
UX Architect, EMC Consulting /

Katy Lindemann“Ye olde days of (web)logging: when it still began with a ‘w’ and people thought it would never take off…”
Freelance Strategist /

Rishi Dastidar / Matt Busher“Self Portrait Postcards”
Senior copywriter, archibald ingall stretton… / Designer, mandatory thinking

Claire Burge – “From Mud Pies to Geek Chick”
Photographer /

It’s looking to be a lot of fun. It looks like we’re at capacity, with a heavy waitlist – but there is still one way to get in. We’ve still got space for a few micro-stories: that is, tales of five minutes instead of ten. So, if you have any internet incidents that you think might amuse and enthrall and you want to come, drop me an email at in the next few days.

And if you just can’t make it but want to tune in, watch this space – we’ll try to get a stream up and running on the night, right here.

Until then,


Brands + Gossip: What Could Go Wrong?

Brands like people talking about them in a positive way. Brands love when fans adore them and signify that their life is better because Brand X is in it. This is the Pleasantville of marketing. Reality isn’t so generous. Sometimes the product doesn’t live up to the brand and sometimes the brand doesn’t live up to the product.

Questions, speculations, myth and fan expectations can turn a product and/or brand into consumer gossip. Apple announced the launch of the iPhone 4S, still a kick-ass phone but not the iPhone 5 we were all hoping for. What does the ‘33’ stand for on the Rolling Rock bottle? Why are AT&T cell phone signals so bad in New York and San Francisco?

Photo Source:

We spoke with our good friend Nick Denton, self-proclaimed Gossip Merchant at Gawker.  We asked Nick how can brands navigate the gossip about them and how Gawker can help them. He brought up three really good points that changed how we view things over here at BBH Labs:

1) Are we listening to the right crazies?
We let people with more time on their hands be more influential. Nick wants this to change. He doesn’t think time is a true metric of influence. He wants to emphasize those that are actually interesting in what they comment about. Why can’t brands do the same?

2) Create a safe space for conversations
Earlier this year BBH Labs wrote a post about Social Flings and this particular tactic falls into that camp. Brands need places where they can answer honestly and openly without general fear of attack. Perhaps AT&T invites an Engineer to explain the cell phone signal issues in New York and San Francisco? Lean into the controversy and squelch it. Gawker network wants to be that safe place for brands with a new offering launching sometime next year.

3) Brands need to be interesting as well
Brands (or brand hired celebrities) can join the conversation online and be a peer. Brands have a point of view on the world beyond their primary business. One example we like to use is, ‘If Red Bull the brand left a review on a skateboard that was being sold on Amazon we would find that review credible.’ If brands appeared in these spaces it could change consumer perception in a very interesting and unboring way.

What do you think of these points? Are we missing anything? Can we look at brand gossip in a new way?