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    • 5 Things Agencies Can Learn From Music Labels

      11th February 11

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in music, strategy

      Author: Dan Hauck, ex-BBHer, now Planning Director at Sony Music UK

      The title might sound a bit presumptuous, but that’s not the intention. Clearly, there are a huge number of things that music labels can learn from agencies, and indeed most labels are only starting to embrace things that have been commonplace in agencies for years.

      Why should anyone listen to an industry that is in such obvious structural and financial turmoil? Well, partly because that’s exactly why the music industry is starting to embrace change where it once ignored it, happy to let the CD dollars roll in. Those days have well and truly gone, and that has brought a realization that if they don’t do something new, they might not be doing anything at all.

      But mainly because the particular nature of the music industry has led to certain practices that I believe agencies can learn from. I’ve worked at Sony Music for a year now. We’ve tried to establish some of the basic principles of brand planning into the way in which marketing campaigns are created – proper understanding of audiences, an informed neutral approach to channel planning, artist/campaign propositions, creative briefs, full campaign evaluation etc etc.

      In truth, some initiatives have worked better than others. There are factors unique to the music industry that can make planning for bands more difficult than for brands (incredibly short lead times, and the difficulty of working with a living and breathing product, to name two).

      But there are also factors particular to this industry that lead a planner in music to a certain type of planning, one which I think can offer some interesting learnings for the discipline as a whole. Read full post

    • Think While You Make, Make While You Think

      14th January 11

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in People, process

      “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
      ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up (1936)

      Photo: Balance, by LN

      At the end of last year, I briefly questioned our fascination with making things. For some reason, I was feeling uneasy. A flurry of conversation on Twitter ensued and later our friend @willsh followed up with a post of his own reflecting anew on the topic.

      Just so we’re clear, we’re big advocates of making and experimenting, not just talking or thinking. And if we’re even half-coping with the maelstrom of change out there, it’s because we’re getting comfortable with the idea of perpetual learning. That may sound hideously exhausting, but it’s responsible for keeping us sane: it’s a blessed relief when you realise your job is to act on patterns and opportunities as they warp and wend around you, instead of sending yourself quietly mad searching for a linear, tried and tested path to knowledge.

      And yet.. we need to stop and draw breath from time to time. There are a few reasons for this, some of which, sure, we’re all familiar with:

      Read full post
    • Advertising, mobile, the fall of capitalism and slankets.

      7th January 11

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Events, mobile

      Author: Peter Sells (@sellsy), Head of Mobile, BBH London

      http://www.vimeo.com/18528044

      It’s normally an absolute pleasure to speak to your peers about a topic of your choosing. A pleasure that turns to butt clenching FEAR when your know your peers are going to JUDGE you, in a contest against other speakers who are funnier and cleverer than you will ever be.

      The Battle of Big Thinking event format focuses the mind then, but perhaps not necessarily on the big thoughts.  For, as the review contends, this year there was a heavy emphasis on execution and perhaps less on the idea.

      Mine obviously was the exception…

    • A Quick Glance Back – 10 of Our Favourite Posts from 2010

      31st December 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in BBH Labs

      For 11 months and 30 days of the year at Labs we force ourselves to face forward. A relentless, 24/7, barely-stop-for-a-sandwich, is-the-singularity-here-yet? pursuit of the future. Okay, you know what we mean. On the last day of the year, however, it seems like a good moment to look back briefly, draw breath and say thank you.

      The ten posts here that we’ve pulled from several times that number in 2010 are a representation, versus an exhaustive analysis, of the themes that coloured our year. Nonetheless, there are some common threads that emerge along the way to help paint a picture. This year, five particularly large threads dominate: collaborative creativity, social ideas, new agency models, ‘new school’ learning and sustainable marketing.

      As we said when we did this in 2009, this post also gives us the opportunity to say thanks. Thank you for reading this blog and for inviting us to contribute to yours, for debating with us, asking and answering great questions, sharing your wisdom and making us smarter.

      If the past few years have taught us anything at all, it is this: the more insanely steep the curve on change, the stronger our need for the talent and generosity of the people around us.

      This was also a year of hellos and goodbyes at Labs. Hello to Saneel who joined us in NYC and Jeremy who joined us in London, and goodbye to Pats and to Labs co-founder Ben, who landed awesome jobs at CHI in London and Google respectively. We miss our partners in crime, but we’re as excited as ever about what’s coming next, both for them and all of us.

      Which brings us neatly full circle, facing forward again. . .

      Happy New Year Everyone.

      Saneel, Jeremy, Mel

      ***

      So here they are, the ten posts we most enjoyed and which triggered a conversation from which we learned a lot. Posts are in chronological order, with links (via titles) to the original posts.

      1. Where Does the Agency End, And The Crowd Begin?

      We argued here that creative agencies need to move towards becoming permeable organizations. Those in networks need to be reconfigured as networked organizations versus simply organizations within networks. Creative business must be able to draw on not just the talent within the building, but the many skills and areas of expertise that lie beyond those walls. Written pre the launch of Co: and in the very early days of Victors & Spoils, this post provoked an interesting debate around two interesting questions we posed – what impact does this approach have on agency culture and how do you incentivise people in this framework?

      2. Will Social Media Eat Itself?

      Using the dip in trust of friends and peers cited in the latest Edelman Trust Barameter, we took a look at the factors in play: examining the implications and challenges thrown up for social media (as Mike Arauz summed up in a comment: “the management, navigation, and filtering capabilities we need haven’t kept up with our exploding networks..”). We put forward some thoughts for consideration on how to move forward, two of which I find myself returning to, time and time again: 1. Learn how to marry authority and inclusiveness, 2. Ask yourself if you’re offering something genuinely useful.

      3. Screw Relationships, Let’s Have A Fling; On Brands & The Privacy Debate

      This post challenges just about everything we’ve ever learned about loyalty and customer relationships, but does so from the perspective of media efficiency and a shedload of humanity. We argue brands need to let go; concentrate instead on when the context and time is right to initiate a relationship with someone, then move on. The relationship is no less real or valuable, just because it may be fleeting. In doing so, we note, brands demand less depth of information from users, supporting their privacy on the web.

      4. We Know Chrome is Fast, But…(Google Chrome Speed Tests)

      As remixes and spoofs go, we liked Opera’s take on BBH NY / Google Creative Labs’ work for Google Chrome. It also gave us an excuse share the current (awesome, though we say so ourselves) work that was live at the time, as well as go behind the scenes with the Making of.

      5. A Perfect Storm: the social web, storytellers and brands

      Prompted to give a talk at our friends’ Power to the Pixel’s Pixel Lab, we examined how brands are telling stories on the web, what entertainment brands have to teach non-entertainment brands about transmedia storytelling and proposed a framework for how brands and producers may work together beyond straightforward product placement or promotions.

      6. Raging Against the Machine: A Manifesto For Challenging Wind Tunnel Marketing

      In a tour de force of five separate posts spanning the second half of the year by BBH Chairmen, Jim Carroll and Charles Wigley, we railed against the “Wind Tunnel” approach to marketing that uses identical methodologies to deliver insight, ironing out difference. The argument began with Wind Tunnel Politics at the time of the UK election. In the post we’ve chosen here, Jim focuses on a series of solutions looking at how we achieve divergent insight and deliver better value for brands. This in turn was followed up by a workshop Chaz held in Asia: The Anti-Wind Tunnel Marketing Movement. For the full series, please just put ‘wind tunnel marketing’ into the search box of our blog.

      7. Ben’s Last Post: Some Things I’ve Learned At BBH

      A lot more than a farewell post, a considered, entertaining and brilliant bit of writing that sums up 5 years’ worth of learning** on the inside of agency life. Justifiably our most popular post this year in terms of tweet love.

      **Note: we’re talking about Ben here, who fits seven days’ work into one on a good day. So the time frame is misleading, better think in terms of dog years instead.

      8. How To Do Propagation Planning

      Griffin Farley’s post which does exactly what it says on the tin. An incredibly useful, generous post and a slideshare to boot (co-authored by Campfire’s Mike Monello), examining the hows and whys of “planning not for the people you reach, but the people that they reach.” And a great observation answering Edward Boches’s question: why give content away?

      9. St John Ambulance: The Difference

      As we say in the post, we like nothing more than great creativity and innovation put to great use. BBH London’s work for St John Ambulance showed a clearly defined communication problem and managed to combine surprise and emotion beautifully.

      10. What Collaborative Consumption Means For Marketers

      Inspired by Rachel Botsman’s TED talk, our argument takes the line that marketers so far have focused largely on collaborative production, vs consumption. In this post we examine what the implications might be for brands to exploit this potential shift in focus. As with all these posts, the comments add immense value to the thinking.

      AND THE THEMES THAT WOULDN’T STAY DOWN THIS YEAR…

      - The rise and rise of social and participatory ideas. Just a few examples of the work and the thinking here: A kind of magic: Myspace Music Fan VideosSuperbowl, super social: The story of Yeo ValleyBurberry’s Global 3D Live Shows + SocialDigital Communities Can Learn From “Leading Clever People“, The Powers and Perils of Participation (originally a guest post on the Likeminds blog).

      - Proof that awesome creativity is alive and well, just emerging in new, exciting, tech-enabled forms: our favourites ranged from Ali Merry’s story behind BBH London’s game for Barclays, 56 Sage Street and their Status of Africa Facebook app to awesome light painting with an iPad from Dentsu London and Analogue Digital’s hotel light show for Target. We also love the iOscars and, perhaps most of all, yet more of BBH New York’s outstanding work for Google Chrome.

      - The desire to challenge orthodoxy where needed, with some solutions along the way: in addition to the Wind Tunnel series, BBH NY’s Emma Cookson challenged short hand marketing rules whilst Calle Sjoenell with characteristic perspicacity and good humour threw down his Radical Proposal To Save Advertising on the Web. We also asked the questions Agency, Does Your Client Need You?Where’s the Coke Bottle of the Online World? and later in the year debated whether the word “digital” should be killed for good.

      - Sustainable living becomes sustainable marketing? If we make one prediction for 2011, it’s this: the social web will both encourage and enable businesses to behave more sustainably and win in the process. Give to receive. Think about it. If brands and agencies need any encouragement or provocation from others, here are just some of the show-stoppingly great initiatives and platforms that caught our eye this year: Pencils of PromiseTIE – Exchange for Good, A Developing Story, Six Items Or Less and Green Thing’s Saved.

      - Collaboration and crowdsourcing in all its forms came of age. I tried to write that exact sentence at the end of 2009 and Ben (rightly) questioned it. But this year, no question, crowdsourcing and the overturning of old models kicked into the mainstream. The topic stretched between agency models (see the first post to make our top 10 this year above, it’s also examined in Agency, Does Your Client Need You?), skillsets and attitudes (Are You Ready To Form Voltron?), to hands-on experience via the brilliant Betacup Project, an interview with the founders Len and Daniel of The 3six5 Project and Rick Liebling, not to mention flipping the idea of crowdsourcing on its head and examining the magic that happens when creativity and crowdsourcing meet.

      - How storytelling can have the power to move and surprise us, no matter what its form: what the book sensation Tree of Codes can teach digital, James Mitchell’s great #bobt speech The Value of A Good Story and Jeremy’s reevaluation of Long Form. And grateful thanks to our friend Dan Light, who happily subjected himself to a three part interview on brands and transmedia at the hands of Ben Shaw and Mel, whilst setting up his brand spanking new company.

      - All back to the new school: the power of perpetual learning. A fitting theme to end on. This year we learned a huge amount from others and it’s only given us appetite to learn some more. We put a call out to join us for an Internet Week Europe event and attempted en masse to learn how to code with the help of the super smart and nice Tom Uglow and friends at Google; we spent time at SXSWi and TED Global (thank you to June Cohen and Ronda Carnegie); Zach Blank showed us what open source has to teach us about creativity; we got a life and a 20% project and learned from one in particular, The Knot Collective. Much respect also due to both Boulder Digital Works (we continue to learn more from the students than they from us) and, er, the CIA. . .as well as BBH NY’s amazing internship program, the BBH Barn, which goes from strength to strength.

    • Super Bowl, Super Social: The Story Of Yeo Valley

      24th December 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in creativity, Cross-platform

      YeoTube, the brand's YouTube channel (never knowingly afraid of a pun).

      It seems every food brand on the planet wants to be “100% natural” these days. In the face of rising ethical consumption, even the unlikeliest of brands – McDonald’s, Muller and Walkers crisps to name a few – are responding and staking a claim. Always outspent in marketing terms, organic food producers – just at the point they should be claiming their day in the sun – face being outpositioned too. If you care about it enough, you only have to Google the term to find out that there are real and significant benefits to sustainably produced organic food, but why bother when even a celebrity chef tells us conventional foods are good enough?

      Ask a mainstream UK audience in a recession-hit early 2010 what they had to say about organic food and the impact of all this showed: top responses included increased scores against “expensive”, “worthy” and “a bit dull”.

      By contrast, when a team of us met Tim Mead (whose family started making dairy products under the Yeo Valley name in 1974) in March this year, two things were striking:

      1. His approach: an unapologetic marriage of entrepreneurialism and down-to-earth common sense. An organic farmer for the 21st century if there ever was one.

      2. Their vision: Tim and his mother, Mary Mead, believe organic, sustainably produced food should be accessible to everyone.  Philosophically and practically it’s a virtuous circle: the more people eat sustainably produced food, the better it is for all of us and the planet. But “accessible to everyone” demands prices that are competitive to conventional products and that in turn makes a volume-based strategy for Yeo Valley both an economic possibility AND an absolute necessity, if the company is to prosper.

      Which was where they saw a role for marketing: to drive demand amongst a necessarily broader, more mainstream audience, along the way helping people to remember Yeo Valley’s name and what it stands for – not least the fact it’s a real place in the West Country.

      Our strategy was simple: tackle the perception issue head-on by reversing the expectations of how an organic brand should behave amongst a mainstream UK audience. Goodbye: worthy and earnest. Hello: open and social, populist and proud.

      For more on the anatomy of our approach take a look below. First up, some results and what we’ve learned so far. It’s still very early days and we’ve resisted writing about this until we had some (hot off the press) commercial data. We’ll have more substantive conclusions once we’re further in, but here’s what we know for now:

      - Furthermore, Yeo Valley spontaneous awareness as a dairy brand had more than doubled just 2 weekends in to the campaign (7% to 15%). Source: Nursery brand tracker

      - Of the online mentions since launch in October an average week records a 94.9% favourable sentiment score – fuelled no doubt by over 550 blogposts and the odd celebrity tweetSource: Sysomos sentiment analysis


      10 THINGS WE’VE LEARNT

      Perhaps few surprises here, but at the very least a strong reinforcement of some evolutionary truths about modern fmcg marketing:

      1. Be true to the people who live the brand, not the perception. In this case, organic brands don’t have to wear sandals.
      2. Broadcast can still play a crucial role. If you want to reach a discrete audience (cf Marmarati or Stella Artois Black’s Night Chauffeur) it may be far from necessary, however if your task is mass appeal and you deliberately want to make a public statement about your brand, then broadcast is hard to beat. The trick for Yeo Valley in this respect was three-fold (points 3, 4 and 5 below):
      3. Strategy is the art of sacrifice. There wasn’t a huge marketing budget to blow. In terms of bought media, instead of attempting to be everywhere, we brokered an exclusive deal with ITV and Fremantle around X Factor and went big with it. One 2 minute spot, first ad in the first break of the UK’s TV biggest show would, we hoped, act as a rocket launcher for the brand. Subsequently, an on-pack promotion and a mix of shorter time length ads appeared, only ever in X Factor on ITV1, ITV2 and itv.com.
      4. Super bowl, super social: we began the process believing the answer did not lie in choosing between social and broadcast, but in committing to both wholeheartedly. To borrow @willsh’s analogy, ‘fireworks bring you to the brand, you stay for the warming fire’. In Yeo Valley’s case, this meant live event TV every weekend, with an ongoing bedrock of conversation and additional content on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube which extends, deepens and personalizes the brand’s relationship with new customers.
      5. As we’ve said before, it’s not about now, it’s about the trajectory. The basics of the brand’s behaviour and presence online were laid down months before the TV ad launch and will continue long after; amongst other things getting to know like-minded bloggers, who came to Yeo Valley over the summer to see for themselves how a sustainable dairy farm is run.
      6. Reward the fans – by recognising the very best remixes and spotting what they like and giving them more (in our case, letting Ted the owl take over @yeovalley for a day on Twitter and produce his own edit).
      7. If you can, change the rules of a category. Quite simply, the conversation around Yeo Valley was fuelled by content and behaviour that caught people’s imagination in a surprising way. A brand trending on Twitter a few days in a row may not be a result in itself, but since the sentiment stayed largely favourable, it gave us a useful indicator of early impact and most importantly where earned media could come from.
      8. Haters gonna hate? Maybe, maybe not. Sure, some criticism should be ignored, but we’ve gained a lot more by listening, taking a deep breath and responding.
      9. Have an organising thought that can cross platforms and time. “Live in Harmony” sums up Yeo Valley’s world view and also gives the brand and its audience the licence to have some fun with music over time, even playing with the sounds of the farm itself: YouTube Preview Image
      10. Brands that get better under scrutiny, not worse, will win in social environments online. With Yeo Valley this was never a problem. But it’s worth thinking beyond your carefully planned editorial calendar: what are the issues and opportunities that just *might* arise?

      THE ANATOMY OF ‘LIVE IN HARMONY’ TO DATE

      The engagement plan set out to splice bought, earned and owned media. It was necessarily quite complex – this is the simple version:


      If you’d like to find out more drop us a comment here, check out the brand’s website or YeoTube for more Yeo Valley videos. These include a Making Of together with a series of films featuring Tim & Mary Mead, each offering a window on Yeo Valley as a real place in the West Country (one example below):

      YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

      Finally, look out for “Farmony“, our Yeo Valley online game teaching kids how to run a sustainable farm, launching in early 2011.

      CREDITS

      Yeo Valley:
      Tim Mead, Managing Director
      Adrian Carne, Commercial Director
      Ben Cull, Head of Brands
      Alison Sudbury, Marketing Manager
      Niki Martini, Assistant Brand Manager
      Sally Laurie, Customer Services Manager

      BBH:
      Rosie Arnold, Deputy Exec Creative Director
      Kevin Brown, Director of Engagement Planning
      Mel Exon, Strategic Business Lead

      Simon Pearse and Emmanuel Saint M’Leux, creative team
      Eric Chia, Digital Creative Lead
      Glenn Paton, Producer

      Mark Whiteside, Team Director
      Simeon Adams, Strategist
      Lawrence Kao, Strategist
      Jim Hunt, Head of Technology
      Craig Dodd, Tech Lead
      Ebla Salvi, Digital Team Manager
      Josie Robinson, Team Manager
      Sarah Barclay, Digital Project Manager
      Daniele Orner-Ginor, Digital Intelligence
      Emile Doxey, Data Analyst
      David Pandit, Head of Data
      Richard Helyar, Knowledge & Insight
      Rebecca Levy, Team Assistant

      PR: Bell Pottinger
      Richard Moss, Director (PR Planning)
      Kate Griffiths, Account Director
      Jacquelyn Redpath, Account Manager

      Brand identity redesign: Pearl Fisher
      Tess Wickstead, Planning Director
      Natalie Chung, Creative Director
      Matt Small, Client Services Director
      Michael Dye, Senior Account Manager
      Henry Leeson, Head of Realisation

      TV Production Company: Flynn
      Julien Lutz, Director
      Emma Butterworth, Producer
      Alex Barber, DoP

      Post Production: Framestore
      Editing: Steve Ackroyd at Final Cut
      Sound: 750mph
      Exposure: TV, UK

    • Digital, can we kill this word for good?

      16th December 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in creativity, digital

      The good people from the Cristal Festival (held in Crans, Switzerland.. not a bad place to be at this time of year) got in touch a few months ago, asking me to join a panel today with two very smart ladies, Fernanda Romano (Euro RSCG’s Global CD for Digital & Experiential Advertising) and Patou Nuytemans (Chief Digital Officer, Ogilvy EMEA).

      We were each asked to come with an answer to the question that’s the title of this post. My response – a super short presentation and what was said to accompany it – below.



      When I first heard the question, the answer felt pretty obvious. An immediate YES. Let’s kill it stone dead, with fire, right here, right now. Both Fernanda and Patou argued with absolute certainty that this should be the case, letting a series of integrated award entries from a single telco in Bahrain (yes, that was the point…) do the talking.

      Personally, my response was driven by the fact the word feels both outmoded AND it suggests unnecessary complexity; a separation between “digital” and “analogue” that’s vaporising before our eyes. Even before analogue TV channels are switched off forever (in the UK in 2012), we all know audiences flow freely between on and offline and expect to see coherency from brands, wherever they find them. This blurring is only going to get more extreme, until we don’t even notice the difference. In fact, I’m fairly convinced we’re the last generation to even care.

      Continuing in this vein, I borrowed the oft-quoted Charlene Li’s statement at SXSW in 2009 that “[digital] social networks will be like air”. Businesses need to prepare themselves for a future where open, hyper-connected networks are the norm. Talking about “digital” vs everything else out there is arguably unhelpful, reminiscent of a past when digital was an after thought and treated as a channel (“okay, we’ve got our big idea, now let’s do some of that digital stuff!”). Now that digital underpins much of what we do, it becomes next to meaningless as a descriptor.

      Or does it? Before we draw the knife to kill the word, let’s just hold on a minute. If we stop using the word digital, what would replace it? How would we describe the creative canvas and media environment in which we operate? Note: ‘post-digital’ is not an option.

      Taking a step back, there’s nearly always an answer somewhere in history – as Russell Davies’ reference to post-war England in his Post Digital apology perfectly encapsulates – or better still, given I was asked to talk about killing something, let’s learn from Mother Nature.

      There’s a natural rhyme and reason to the flow of things in nature. Put incredibly simply, all living things experience at least two of the following during their lifetime: birth, sex, death.

      Where are we *really* in the cycle of digital’s life? Actually, I’d argue we’re somewhere just after birth.

      We’re certainly no-where near approaching maturity. Like virgins discussing sex, we’ve boasted about nearly doing it, thought we may have done it (not entirely sure) and excitedly talk about what it’ll be like when we’ve done it, you know, A LOT. There are people who are legitimately experienced, but most of us aren’t. Not in the “10,000 hours logged coding” sense of the word.

      Sure, we don’t all need to know how to code brilliantly in order to qualify. Although I’d like to suggest we might want to learn a little. Ad agency creatives ten years ago didn’t need to be directors, editors or lighting cameramen to write great TV scripts. However, they’d lived with telly and newspapers their whole lives and learned the craft of writing, design and art direction before they ever dared set foot inside an agency. Likewise the UK’s IPA has stacks of papers which prove the effectiveness of advertising, yet would be the first to admit the real ROI of digital activity is still in its infancy.

      Until the industry at large has a universal understanding of what it takes in terms of craft and intelligence to deliver *outstanding* digital work, suggesting we should ‘kill digital’ feels grossly premature.

      In writing this, I’m reminded of Iain Tait’s last column for NMA just last month, in which he protested with good reason:

      “Digital may be everyday, but it’s not effortless… It’s time to stop all the nonsense about trying to call this stuff this or that. Only thing that matters is whether it’s good or not. The only thing more stupid than all the word-monkeying is denying that technology, code and making things out of bits and bytes is important.”

      I’ve got a lot of sympathy with this for a bunch of reasons (as I’ve said before here, a favourite post of mine is The Tragic Death of Practically Everything), but in the main I’d like us to show digital some respect. Yes, it informs everything like air, but that doesn’t make it easy to breathe.

      In short, I’d like our industry to be allowed to reach its potential in terms of digital skill. Not recognising the particular craft skills and necessary time on the clock runs the risk of arresting our collective development. Let’s not let that happen.

    • On virtual packaging: where’s the Coke bottle of the online world?

      19th November 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Brands, design

      Author: Matthew Gladstone (@gladstonematt), Partner, BBH London

      So it’s official, “Applications are the white goods of the 21st century” and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2bn threshold in the US and iTunes has over a billion downloads.

      But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party – Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don’t actually “own” them – they cannot sell them second hand on eBay.

      I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding.  Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren’t.

      What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership.  And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things.  Which are big problems in the virtual economy.

      So my provocation is this: “Virtual packaging” is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trade-marks onto commodities in the tangible world – branded them as “theirs” – we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.

      The most obvious examples of this are Apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic).  And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?

      I think that one day we will look back at the App v.2010 and laugh at its crudity.  One day we will have virtual packaging as iconic as this:

      But let’s go back to the beginning.

      My first wake up call was overhearing the oft-debated morality of downloading music.  Free file sharing?  Fine.  Normal.  That’s how you get music.  Why the question?  But walking out of a store with a cd without paying for it?  Shoplifting.  Stealing.  Wrong.  Equally obvious.

      So what’s the difference between download and CD?  To the artist, none.  But to the user, one was packaged – physical, shiny, found in a shop – the other, just a piece of anonymous data accessed through a browser.

      Look at Murdoch vs. the App.  No detailed data are available yet, but anecdotal reports say that iPad apps are performing disproportionately well vs. subscriptions accessed via browser.  And Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO of the Financial Times, says the iPad is a “game-changer” for the newspaper industry.  It’s the app vs the generic packaging of the browser.

      And then the success of iTunes or Amazon?  These are also “packaged” environments – clearly understood as “shops” where you pay for stuff.  Unlike Limewire or Piratebay.

      Which leaves our last example – the action against someone selling software discs on eBay.  The Software and Information Industry Association (USA) is breaking our norms of ownership and property when it says “I own that physical thing you bought”.  We all feel that physical things belong to the person who buys them.

      So the App is really just a virtual box.  iTunes or Amazon just a virtual shop (no shit).  Things that have cleverly used the norms of ownership and property in the virtual space, to make us more likely to pay for them.  Right now the virtual retailers seem to be way more sophisticated than the products they sell – but hopefully that will change.

      So here are some starters on creating virtual packaging (some of these may seem uncannily obvious or familiar to the real world, but maybe that’s the point):

      -       visual identity which differentiates the object
      -       tangible, touchable
      -       a differentiated experience (sounds, colours, even haptic “textures”)
      -       adaptive to the owner – evolving into something distinctively personal to the owner
      -       hard to copy and transfer; the sense of a physical transfer, not a lossless virtual one

      Perhaps it’s time music came in Apps. As we said earlier: branded on the button, tangible, with a memory of what I did last time, with an experience unique to each app or band.  Perhaps it would even be like a gatefold of old, but on steroids.  Now that’s something I’d pay for.

      We’d like to know what you think.  Who’s doing this well? Do you know anyone who works in the world of packaging who’d want to comment?

    • 11.11.10: Coding for Dummies with Google

      3rd November 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Events

      Joint authors: Tom Uglow (@tomux) and Mel Exon (@melex)

      We all know what a page is, and HTML, and a server – but did you ever want to code? Well, our afternoon of coding for beginners in London next week won’t make you into a ninja web developer, but it is a light-hearted, activity-led series of hour-long sessions for the most (and we mean ‘most’) inexperienced web wannabe.

      We will show you what an HTML page is made of and then you’ll make one yourself. There will then be an hour on CSS (or making it pretty). An hour on javascript (or making it do stuff). An hour on API’s (or adding cool stuff) and then an hour on HTML5 and and the future . . .

      Think of it as Blue Peter meets O’Reilly – by the end of the day you should have your own toilet-roll and sellotape webpage and a few new skills. You can come for any of the hour-long courses or for the whole afternoon. We’ll bring some experts (a couple of awesome Google engineers, along with BBH London’s Head of Technology, Jim Hunt and Head of Creative Technology, Jon Andrews). You’ll need to bring a laptop and some enthusiasm.

      There’s limited availability, so please RSVP to carrie.murray@bbh-labs.com

      This is our small contribution to Internet Week Europe, follow them here and find out about other events during next week here.

    • Saved: The Story of A Sustainable T-Shirt

      2nd November 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in creativity, Sustainability

      Source: dothegreenthing on Flickr - http://flic.kr/p/8NUsNV

      We’ve written before about our straight-up admiration for Green Thing’s focus on using creativity to switch people away from thinking of green living as something we ought to do, to something we want to do.

      This time around, they’ve applied their talents to t-shirts.

      As the blurb says: “Saved is a new sustainable product and anti-waste campaign that takes unwanted or unloved T-shirts, washes them, hand-stitches ‘Saved’ lettering onto them, adds a Saved story (saved from bad taste, saved from disrepair, saved from neglect) and in doing so makes each T-shirt a bit more fashionable and a lot more desirable.”

      Aside from the obligatory celebrity endorsement (stand up Marina and the Diamonds, Imogen Heap, VV Brown, Professor Green and Zandra Rhodes, who’ve all donated t-shirts) the thing we particularly like is the innovation and design Green Thing used at every stage of the Saved cycle. Including a “pay it forward”-style approach to delivery – already recycled, the packaging containing your t-shirt can be reused with a freepost label to send back one of your own old t-shirts to be Saved for somebody else.

      Find out more on @dothegreenthing‘s site here or watch the one minute video below.

      But more importantly, buy one on their Facebook page here.

      YouTube Preview Image
    • Our top ten reads from the last 7 days: 1st November, 2010

      1st November 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in BBH Labs

      It is not the same to talk about bulls, as to be in the bull ring”
      - Spanish proverb (HT @juzmcmuz)

      We’ve mentioned before that we pick just 10 links we like the look of every week (provocative, challenging, useful and/or entertaining tend to be the order of the day) and send them to our friends at BBH around the world.

      It’s heavily based on the @BBHLabs twitterstream across 7 days, but filleted, honed and whittled to a Top Ten for anyone who fancies a filter between them and the 24/7, 365 days a year drenching in data that is Twitter.

      So here it is again. Feel free to pass on. As usual, ideas on making it more useful always welcome.

      “140 chars is not a limit, it’s a shape” – exceptional interview with @discographies on Big Spaceship’s Think blog: http://bit.ly/bXzMkz

      ‘Ball Droppings’, a Chrome HTML5 experiment: http://bit.ly/9ua0s (via @timogeo @seth_weisfeld)

      The history of mankind in a minute – a great stop-motion animation for BBC: http://bit.ly/aFhOUN (via @motionographer)

      Super cool – Stamen Design’s 2 week long series of race data visualisations for W+K London’s Nike Grid is live: http://sta.mn/x3g

      Not sure why this took so long. Augmented Reality app that lets users graffiti buildings. Interesting “steal” feature too: http://gizmo.do/bHdwRm

      *Extraordinary* short ‘Nuit Blanche’ – if you’ve not seen this, think Brief Encounter + CGI – by Arev Manoukian: http://bit.ly/bEnTvw (via @finnbarrw)

      Two handy infographics from Flow Town: How Important Have Apps Become? http://bit.ly/awjgWY & The Social Buying Universe: http://bit.ly/coPzse

      NASA turns its attention to sustainability challenges right here on Earth, with its LAUNCH initiative: http://launch.org/ (via @jess3)

      How Money Follows Attention, Eventually – Kevin Kelly on the commercial future of mediators who boost the signal: http://bit.ly/dfGfun

      “The first step for each of us is to imagine fearlessly; to dream.” – big thinking from Ray Ozzie: http://bit.ly/a3RsM5 (via @Techcrunch)

      ***

      And a bonus 11th, Power to the Pixel guest post on Labs: Powered by Pixels – on new storytelling: http://bit.ly/pttppost

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