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Archive for October, 2012

  • I Will Not Follow

    31st October 12

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Brands, strategy

    Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London


    In 1983 Celtic troubadours The Waterboys released a song called “I Will Not Follow”. I’m pretty sure it was a response to U2′s anthemic “I Will Follow”. Answer songs have a rather mixed history (though I’m grateful to the category for providing us with Roxanne Shante and Althea & Donna…), and I suspect “I Will Not Follow” was not The Waterboys’ finest moment  Nonetheless, I admired their courage in taking on the emerging Titans of Rock. And I loved the sentiment. The determination not to go with the flow, not to follow the masses, not to get lost in the crowd. A passionate rejection of passivity. A celebration of the power of negative thinking.

    When I was in my last year at College, thoughts turned to possible careers. It was the late ’80s and , in the wake of the Big Bang, there was a magnetic pull towards the Big Job in The City. It was natural, obvious, exciting. The dark satanic thrills .. I recall my decision not to apply for a City role felt more significant to me than any subsequent active career choice.

    I used to interview young graduates looking for a job. I found that their CVs were curiously similar. When asked what they’d achieved in life, they’d say they’d travelled to Asia, captained the hockey team, and they liked skiing and reading. But when one asked what the candidate had chosen not to do, more singular answers were forthcoming.

    Some of our most important decisions are the paths we choose not to take,the roads we refuse to travel. Our lives can often be best understood by mapping the things we didn’t do, the words we didn’t say. Perhaps we should more often consider a brand’s unspoken truth, quiet regret. Because in its silence and inaction may reside its strength and identity.

    ‘If you gave me a pound for all the moments I’ve missed,
    And I took dancing lessons for all the girls I should’ve kissed.
    I’d be a millionaire, I’d be Fred Astaire’
    ABC – “Valentine’s Day”

    My first job after College was as a Qualitative Researcher. ‘Brand elasticity’ projects were very much in vogue. Could this everyday family margarine perhaps be a cheese, or a biscuit, or a ready meal or a jam? With a sip of Chardonnay and a nod of assent, my respondents would consistently give the green light to a whole host of reckless innovations and insane brand extensions. And over the years the song has remained the same, even if the lyrics have changed. Could my brand be an experience, a portal, a membership club? Could it be a hotel, a hub, a content provider? Could it release a clothing line with rugged check shirts, boxer shorts and rain resistant outerwear? Isn’t my brand more a lifestyle choice than a yellow fat?

    Curiously perhaps, research respondents find it easy to endorse our grandest aspirations. But then it’s not their money and maybe they’re just being polite. Sometimes it seems we need to be better at defining the limits of our ambition, at identifying the red line, the point beyond which we will not go. Sometimes we need to demonstrate more restraint, more discipline, more negativity.

    Many Clients are instinctively suspicious of the negative perspective. Surely it betrays a lack of confidence, enthusiasm, ambition? In order to sustain consistency they develop processes and platforms, models and matrices, funnels and formats. But best demonstrated practice is often worst demonstrated imagination. Over the years negative thinking has inspired truly exceptional communication by the likes of Dunlop, Audi, Marmite, Volvo, Stella and Guinness. What would a world be like without this brand? Who are its enemies? What is its weakness? Whenever one is confronted by the bland, boring or undifferentiated, it’s always helpful to reach for a liberating ‘not’.

    Of course in the age of the social web possibilities seem infinite. We want campaigns to be all embracing, 360º, holistic. We want to tick off platforms like hard porno some bizarre game of I Spy. We want all the colours in all the sizes. Yet I wonder if the democratisation of knowledge and opinion creates a kind of accelerated conformity: the Consensus of Crowds. Surely brand behaviour on the web would benefit from a little more negative thinking? Perhaps more discipline and self denial? Maybe we need to see more of the brand that likes to say ‘no’, the brand that will not follow…

    Every morning I face the horrors of commuting as I change Tube at Kings Cross. Crowded, crushed, compressed. Downbeat, dour, depressed. In order to get onto my teeming southbound train into the centre of town, I walk along the less cluttered northbound platform. Periodically empty northbound trains stop and then recommence their journey out to the quiet leafy suburbs. I’ve always promised myself that one day I’ll jump on one of those empty northbound trains, make my way to the end of the line, find a caff and settle down to The Guardian, bacon, eggs, tea and toast. One day…

  • Mean Brands

    14th October 12

    Posted by timnolan

    Posted in Brands, social media

    Additional credits: Angela Sun, James Francis, Mark Aronson and Julian Cole

    When people talk about brands being more human online, it somehow always concludes with something along the lines of “be honest, be transparent, be good, be nice”. While all these traits are great, we are overlooking one pretty huge issue: humans are not nice online.

    First, there’s trolling. In academic terms, Lee Sproull (PhD Professor Emerita at NYU’s Stern School of Business) said it best. He coined the term “flame wars” to describe how we act online: there is “an escalation of critical comments, and an increase in the frequency with which people would respond with short negative comments.” There’s no denying that people are mean online. Look at our own industry blogs like Agency Spy; we all know the comments there are just plain mean.

    Sure, trolling is usually done in anonymity, but people are still mean when their identities are revealed. According to a recent article from the WSJ, “most of us present an enhanced image of ourselves on Facebook. This positive image – and the encouragement we get in the form of “likes” – boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.” Is Facebook is turning us into The Plastics from Mean Girls?

    Some of us don’t partake in the mean behavior, but we are all entertained by it. A few of the biggest blogs rose to fame thanks to their snarky commentary. Think Perez Hilton, Suri’s Burn Book and People of Walmart. The internet is vast enough to show the full range of the human experience — including all the gritty, unsavory bits. The internet has also helped normalize these gritty, unsavory bits. We can now air out our guilty pleasures in plain daylight.

    So are brands really being more human online by employing CRM Twitter strategies (think Best Buy Twelpforce) and CSR Social Media Campaigns (think Pepsi Refresh)?

    While we’re not suggesting that brands should act as online bullies and ditch the nice work they do online, we do think there is space for brands to be more “human” online — brands should not homogenize online. We kicked around a few ideas on how to be mean online, and here are our thoughts. The list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it should get your creative juices flowing.

    1. Brand v. Consumer
    People are mean to brands. Why can’t brands be mean to people?
    There are some people who will never be your customer (i.e. health nut probably will never eat at Jack in the Box). So when one of these people says something mean about your brand, give them a taste of their own medicine. For example, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a small chain of movie nuvid porno theaters that has a strict policy against people who talk and text during a movie, posted a voicemail from a disgruntled customer who was kicked out of a theater on YouTube. As a result, they received almost 3 million views and a bunch of love and support.

    This is a pretty polarizing tactic. But for certain brands, the people who love your brand will love your brand even more when your brand doesn’t back down. The tension between the fans and foes can also strengthen brand love and increase brand advocacy.

    2. Brand v. Brand
    Frenemies exist. Should brands instigate cross-category rivalries in social media?
    A social media conversation between two obvious brands would be a bit predictable (see the Twitter exchange between Coke and Pepsi here). The intuitive rivalry for Old Spice would be one with Axe or even Dove for Men. However, Old Spice keeps us on our feet by creating dialogue with Taco Bell.

    This is incredibly smart because the Taco Bell demographic aligns well with the Old Spice target — dudes/ bros. Taco Bell has 265K followers on Twitter and Old Spice has 221K. Though there might be overlap in their fan/follower-base, conversation between the brands helps each gain more relevant followers (biologists call this cross-pollination). For brands with little followings, creating rivalries with highly social brands can help beef up its number of followers, fans and likes.

    3. Brand v. Organizations
    Haters gon’ hate. What can you do about it?
    For brands with the mean gene, good organizations might tattletell. Gossip Girl’s OMFG print ads offended parents everywhere. So much so, the Parents Television Council took enough action to get the OMFG campaign taken down. A season after the campaign was pulled, the CW chose to use quotes from the protesters to advertise the show.

    Though this was not a digital example, social media can be a great mechanism for a rapid response, content strategy. If this was online content, the CW could have quickly replaced its banners and other online assets with the revised versions fuelling the fire. The ads would have created even more noise and buzz for the show.

    The basic premise behind a mean brand strategy is to lean into existing online behaviors to build brand allegiance. It takes a lot to break through in the digital space. Perhaps, the benefits of implementing a mean online strategy is worth the risks. It’s a little like life; “the only way to have everyone like you is to avoid taking a controversial stance on anything… You won’t stand out to anyone and you won’t offend anyone. In business, a dull existence means a weak brand” (source: Fast Company 2012).

  • Social Coding: Git with it.

    3rd October 12

    It is quite obvious that we here at Labs are huge fans of both the open source community, and idea of social-coding platforms. It would go without saying that being fans of such a community is not enough, one would argue that we should not only be an observer, but also a participant. That being said, we looked at a few of the internal projects and experiments we have worked on and felt that at this point we should share bit of code with the rest of the Internet.

    What began as an exploration in Processing quickly became a prototype and finally a solid bit of code that is a complete application. We called it The GIF-A-MATRON, and it is a processing application that interprets the brightness of the webcam’s image and translates it to dots that yerli porno scale based on that image creating abstract interpretation. In the background the application detects a vistor’s motion and secretly captures three frames, two seconds apart and creates an animated GIF. The GIF is then send via PHP to a destination tumblr site for all to see.

    Once we showed it around to a few folks, people instantly liked it. The next logical step was to release it as source for others to build upon, and interpret into what ever they see fit. It’s primary function is something like a animated gif generating photo booth, but we are interested to see where it goes from here. Feel free to grab the source from our Github page. If you do add a twist, let us know, we would love to see what you do with it.