21st May 10
Post by Charles Wigley, Chairman, BBH Asia Pacific
Jim Carroll’s excellent post on Wind Tunnel Politics reflects an idea he came up a couple of years ago – the notion of ‘wind tunnel marketing’ – an idea that Emma Cookson (Chairman, BBH New York), Jim (Chairman, BBH London) and I have been chatting about a lot again recently.
Given the traffic, RTs and positive comments the first post got, we felt it was perhaps time for a more thorough analysis of its impact on what most of us reading this do for a living – the development of brand communications.
We’d like to get the debate going and involve people from all sides – client, agency and research. So please let us know what you think.
Here we’ll look at three things to start the conversation:
I. The origins of the problem;
II. The results; and
III. Some potential solutions
Then we’d like your point of view.
1. The Origins of the Problem
Pretty obviously the world is now crammed with very good, largely parity products across most sectors. With the consequent decline in any real, viable notion of product USP’s the industry has increasingly turned to understanding the consumer as the key source of competitive advantage.
The Holy Grail is a breakthrough ‘consumer insight’. Something that cracks open consumer motivations around a category in a new and fresh way and as a result allows a brand to more powerfully pitch its product or service.
Indeed many companies now have entire departments focussed solely on consumer insight. Some of you reading this may have it in your job title.
And, looked at one way, it makes a lot of sense.
After all, isn’t the whole notion of marketing about ‘satisfying the wants, needs and desires of consumers ‘ ?
There is, however, one rather significant problem with it.
Everyone is looking the same way and largely following the same path.
Frequently doing the same research, with the same consumers via the same research companies on essentially the same products.
The result won’t surprise anyone – they get to very similar places.
So while marketers and their agency partners consistently (and rightly) talk up the critical importance of differentiation, most of our industry is wedded to a ‘best practice’ process that inherently takes them another way – to greater sameness.
2. The Results
Are self-evident and everywhere (ever noticed how hard it is to think of major brand examples of ‘great’ outside of the usual suspects?)
From mid-range family salons that, when unbranded, even car fanatics fail to recognise ( and can you remember the make of the ‘reasonably priced car’ on Top Gear ?…….you’ve probably seen it about 30 times ) to entire categories where the work is just too interchangeable (looked at any skincare advertising recently?) Even brands aimed at youth (where one would assume a greater leeway to pursue difference) seem to be merging into one – an event with a DJ and some free form skateboarders anyone?
From a marketer’s point of view all this serves to do is to make it a game of scale of resources again.
He or she with the biggest distribution network / media budget / sales team wins. The cost efficiencies of genuine brand differentiation are notable largely by their absence.
Yet, because large organisations inevitably (and understandably) need logical ‘handrails’ for staffers to follow, few are challenging the standard, solely consumer insight oriented process currently in place.
3. Potential Solutions
People need systems. Very few of us are individually brilliant enough to be able to operate day in day out in the trenches without them. So an imploration to just ‘go free-form’ is unlikely to be of much use to most companies.
It seems to us, however, that the handrails that need to be put in place need to actively force diversity of thinking.
They need to be ‘hydra-like’ in that they need to regularly have the potential to lead to many different places – not always back to the same spot.
The CIA ‘Problem Definition Checklist’ does this (if you want a copy let us know). When properly followed, the Disruption model does it. Interestingly, in his latest thinking, Adam Morgan is suggesting a far more diverse range of different types of challenger brands (and no doubt different ways to develop them).
For our part at BBH, we are re-committing to one of our oldest strategic tenets (and simplest of thoughts) – ‘insights from many sources, not just consumer’. The product, the brand, the way category operates, the retail experience, the media landscape, etc, etc. – all are ripe for investigation – and all should be.
We are also re-committing to the future.
There’s something interesting here. As per the famous Akio Morito quote - “we don’t ask consumers what they want ; they don’t know. Instead we apply our brain power to what they need, and will want, and make sure we are there ready” - the future is surely what we should be trying to work out the likely terrain of, rather than analysing that of the present or the past. Perhaps the most powerful model we are now trying to get grips is a fusion of brand insight with consumer foresight. Note – not consumer insight – but rather an understanding of where the market is likely to go rather than where it has been.
As we said at the start, we’d like to hear what you think. If this rings true, what are your thoughts on potential solutions?
12th May 10
Post by Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
It was going to be the most important Election in a generation.
It was going to break the mould of British Politics.
It should have been so exciting.
So why did it all seem so unfulfilling? Why did our eager anticipation of the first debate turn to a stifled yawn by the third? Why did our ardour for the new kid turn so quickly to complacency? Why did we shrug at the glossy manifestos, put the recycled thinking straight into the recycling bins?
This was the Sunblest Election. The Election when all the mighty forces of Marketing created three soft, medium sliced, plastic packaged loaves. Designed to please, guaranteed not to let you down. Perfectly pleasant on their own terms, but curiously unsatisfactory.
You see, all three candidates and campaigns had been put through the same Marketing Wind Tunnel.
11th May 10
Posted in Uncategorized
Guest post by Patricia McDonald, Planning Partner, CHI
This is a rare event for us, a guest post from an ex-BBHer, Pats McDonald. Pats has written a fair amount on related topics in the past here and we’re delighted she agreed to do this follow-up.
Hotly anticipated at South by SouthWest but held back for the first ever Twitter developer’s conference in April, Twitter unveiled its long-anticipated advertising platform last month. While the announcement has been slightly overtaken in the hype stakes by the launch of the Facebook Open Graph, the iPhone OS4 and the Apple versus Adobe showdown (quite a month we’re having), there is nevertheless some serious food for thought in the nuances of the Promoted Tweets platform.
I’ve written before about some of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanies the very idea of sponsored tweets and more recently about the very real danger that by polluting the stream, over-advertising in social media may strip the medium of much of its value. So it was intriguing both to see Twitter’s home grown platform and to see reactions to that platform in the Twittersphere. Teeth gnashing was-perhaps surprisingly-at a minimum, although there was some inevitable concern about the proposed long term shift from advertising around keyword searches to advertising in the stream. Read full post
20th April 10
Posted by Dean Woodhouse, Creative, BBH London
Our MySpace Fan Video campaign (which Fran shared here a few months back) has been nominated for a People’s Choice Award at this year’s Webbys, which we’re just a little excited about. And yes, this is an unashamed plug and request for your support.
The category is Best use of Online Media, this is the Myspace entry. All you need to do is sign-up (it takes 20 seconds) and then you get an email that lets you vote.
Whilst we’re here, it would be wrong not to mention our friends at BBH Shanghai’s awesome WWF Fate’s in your Hands in Experimental & Innovation, BBH NY’s Google Chrome in Online Commercials, BBH NY’s Axe Balls in Viral Marketing and Hal & Masa’s (BBH NY) promo video for Sour’s ‘Hibi No Neiro’ in Best Editing.
We’re up against good work from some great agencies like W+K, TBWA, AKQA and Glue, so a win would feel even better.
Deadline for voting is 29th April, so not long to go.
THANKS very much for your support.
13th April 10
The Johnny Cash Project has been doing the rounds on Twitter and the blogosphere recently, for good reason. Anyone initially sceptical (“another crowdsourced music video?”), very quickly realised it was something pretty special. Digging a tiny bit deeper, spotting Aaron Koblin was heavily involved, things started to click into place for us. It’s a well-conceived idea, beautifully done – textbook Koblin.
Something else clicked into place at the same time. So much talk about crowdsourcing, so much experimentation, almost all of which we’re in favour of. Nonetheless, there is an art to how we use the crowd.
Last night I saw Ennio Morricone at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The maestro was conducting some of his best known compositions (including soundtracks to many of Sergio Leone’s films – last night The Ectasy of Gold from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was unforgettably good). On their own, the soprano Susanna Rigacci, the Roma Sinfonietta orchestra and a 100-strong choir were all world class, together they were extraordinary. Morricone is famous for using singers less to tell a verbal story and more as an emotional, ‘human’ instrument. Last night was no exception: there was something completely mesmeric watching orchestra and singers working as one. It was an act of collective creativity.
No question, a lot of us in the audience felt moved, even elevated.
In a similar way (although perhaps the reaction is less viseral, given there’s a little more distance when something isn’t live and in front of you), The Johnny Cash Project is elevating. There is something profoundly brilliant about making the work of many hands *entirely* visible. It feels 50 times as powerful for its sense of mass mobilization behind a creative act. Its strange quirks, differences, non sequiturs…versus how you’d imagine the same task performed by an individual working alone. Suddenly, one artist in isolation feels one dimensional, ironed out, as if the output would lack vibrancy and surprise.
Sure, centuries of art prove me wholly and irrevocably wrong on that last point. But when I think about how we might most usefully use the crowd, it strikes me crowdsourcing has the potential to be most palpably powerful – to lead to richer outcomes – when we use the crowd as a creative collective.
Right now, with the honourable exception of the likes of Aaron Koblin, a number of innovators in music promo creation (including early initiators Hal Kirkland, Masa Kawamura at BBH New York & their buddies Magico Nakamura & Masayoshi Nakamura – whose lovely video for Sour’s Hibi No Neiro is justly famous), our industry seems most interested in using crowdsourcing primarily to:
a) drive down cost
b) give the crowd something to do – in other words, the ‘crowd’ are in fact a target audience and we want them to feel ‘involved’ with a brand
c) broaden choice – lots of responses to a stated question or task, only one winner
Those are all reasonable things to attempt and we’re not suggesting there should be only one use of the crowd, it just strikes us that focusing on using the crowd as a collective creative resource is something we’re doing less of. And yet, oddly enough, it might be the most powerful use yet.
What do you think? Are there a host of examples of brands using crowdsourcing as collective creativity that we’re missing?
For more on The Johnny Cash Project, check out Maria Popova’s blogpost here.
A version of this post was originally posted on melex.posterous.com.
26th March 10
This post is adapted from an article written for Campaign magazine (25.03.10), available online at campaignlive.co.uk next week.
South by Southwest, or SXSW as it likes to be referred to, has celebrated emerging film and music for over two decades, but 2010 was the year the Interactive component of the conference shifted up a gear and gained critical mass. Last week around 15,000 people descended on the city of Austin in Texas for 5 days of neck-deep immersion in progressive digital culture.
Despite its mind-blowing scale, a few key themes emerged for us from SXSWi’s smorgasbord of panels and presentations. Read full post
19th March 10
“Designers are natural activists…taking responsibility for the consequences of what we design needs to be part of the value system of our industry, not a burden for a fringe group to take on. We have reached critical mass in terms of consciousness of the challenge; now we need to move from awareness to action.”
Valerie Casey profile, SXSWorld magazine 2010
Ideas that marry great design with real purpose make us sit up and take notice. So it is with A Developing Story, which we’ve been following since its launch at the end of last year.
ADS publishes news stories from developing countries with a clean & intuitive design that avoids all the worthier-than-thou clichés associated with the category. It also has a mindblowingly simple campaign at its core: to make the creative assets created for public awareness campaigns freely accessible across developing markets.
Makes perfect sense, right? A campaign that nonetheless needs all the support it can get if governments are to be persuaded to dump red tape and adopt what is in effect a Creative Commons approach across developing nations.
9th March 10
When we first heard about The International Exchange (TIE), we were immediately impressed and a little scared in equal measure. TIE is a rare and radical thing: a magical combination of social change and personal development, with a difference. This isn’t a series of talks in swanky conference centres: TIE puts you on the ground where you’re needed, testing everything you think you know about the communications industry along the way.
In a sentence, TIE marries the skills of an individual in the communications industry looking to be stretched professionally and personally, with a project in a developing country needing their time and skill (at this point in time TIE’s focus is Brazil). The experience is like no other, as people who’ve taken part so far testify:
Check out more case studies on TIE’s site: they are an inspiration and an education in equal measure.
We’re happy to say BBH has signed up to take part, so we caught up with Philippa White, TIE’s founder, to hear more about the idea. Read full post