Archive for the ‘Brands’ Category
29th June 11
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
‘Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is.’
I remember the first time I heard Peggy Lee singing the classic Leiber and Stoller number, ‘Is That All There Is?’. The heroine relates how, through the course of her life, experiences that may initially have been exciting, had in fact turned out rather tiresome. From her home burning down, to going to the circus, to falling in love. It’s a hymn to disappointment and apathy. Like most teenagers I had spent large chunks of my short time on the planet lying in my room being incredibly bored. In amongst the bubble gum pop and dinosaur rock of Radio 1, a song that celebrated ennui was a rare and precious thing.
I remember the first time I heard the Clash sing ‘I’m So Bored with the USA’. I was simultaneously shocked and excited. Could one really so publicly proclaim disappointment with the home of rock’n'roll, the land of the free, the country that had given us Barry Manilow, Boz Scaggs and The Sound Of Bread? Was that acceptable? Was that legal?
I remember the first time I saw the painting Ennui by Walter Sickert. The bored couple cannot be bothered to look at each other. One stares into space and the other at the wall. The blank generation. Tedium in oils. And yet so utterly compelling.
It’s a curious thing. Apathy, boredom and tedium seem such dull, passive, inert qualities. Yet they can be exciting, inspiring, disruptive.
And I wonder whether this particular truth is lost on us and our world. We claim to be consumer experts. But are we not in denial of the fact that most consumers, most of the time are just not that into our brand or category? They just don’t care. We sustain a myth that the primary communication challenge is lack of attention, when really, more often than not, it’s lack of interest. Read full post
19th November 10
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.
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?
26th October 10
Author: Erin Riley, Brand and Communications Director, ZAG NY
BBH Labs has become a watering hole for inquisitive, enterprising, and forward thinking minds. Thus, it is a fitting place for ZAG NY to make its first open call for ideas.
ZAG, a wholly owned subsidiary of BBH, is focused on brand invention. We invent brands by exploiting brand lags – where consumer activity outpaces brand activity. The trick of course is not only scouring technology, media, breaking trends, and cultural & consumer insights for what consumers want and need, but then uniquely satisfying those needs in a delightful and profitable way.
ZAG is fortunate because via BBH we have a unique network of collaborators who provide expertise in areas fertile for brand invention. Now, ZAG NY is looking to extend that network beyond the BBH walls and tap an even larger bevy of creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, and anyone else with a brilliant idea.
This slideshare serves as an official call for ideas which will be formally evaluated this November to feed the 2011 pipeline. While we’ll entertain ideas throughout the year, this marks one of three annual formal reviews that will garner the most focused attention from the ZAG team. Pitches will be heard live or by phone/skype/virtual meeting starting week of November 8th.
To stay up to date on ZAG news and thought starters follow our Blog.
(Presentation is best viewed by clicking MENU and FULL SCREEN)
6th October 10
Author: Charles Wigley, Chairman, BBH Asia Pacific
Following our series of Labs posts tackling the issue of “Wind Tunnel” marketing, the natural next step was to put the thinking out into the wild and see what we could learn… I recently ran a workshop at the SPIKES creative festival in Singapore, where solutions were brainstormed by the 100 + attendees.
I began with a run-through of the issue as we see it:
And the workshop attendees responded. Below are just some of the ideas that came out, we’d love to hear any you have to add.
Some of the most popular practical solutions to the key areas discussed (measured by that highly accurate methodology of level of cheers and clapping at the end of the session) were as follows :
The Overall Strategic Process
- Twin team it on major projects – one that the client sees that follows the set process, the other that just has a blank canvas and no set rules
- Follow your gut irrespective of set process – and get more skilled at post rationalisation
- Scrap it ! – well, it was a predominantly creative audience
- Aim off – always ensure you also talk to people intentionally outside of the core target that everyone else is talking to. There maybe unearthed gems there
- Ask ‘why’ more often than ‘what’ – reportage is useless, the reasons behind the actions are what people a looking for
- Creatives more involved in client management – clearly there’s a lot of folk who want to come out of the back room
- Stop hiring ourselves again and again – how can we build difference into our hiring policies?
- Forced job swaps – agency people should work as clients for a while and vice – versa
- Earlier and deeper – agencies arrive too late too often. What can they do to swim upstream in the client briefing process?
- Creative speed dating – too much time working opposite the same person. Time for some new inspiration from different people in the building. Quickly. And ones with different skill sets – eg tech.
- Stop looking at advertising – too much cannibalism. If our only influence is advertising…..then our output will be more…er…….advertising.
- Move the office to the beach – well, that’s the audience again for you (when they get there they’ll probably discover management has been there for a while).
Again, these are just a starter for ten. We’d love to know your thoughts.
Also check out Jim Carroll’s Manifesto here.
16th September 10
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
This is the second of a two-parter by Jim. For the introduction to Wind Tunnel Marketing, check out his earlier post here or read both pieces in today’s Campaign magazine (available on campaignlive.co.uk next week). As always, we’d like to know what you think – please share any thoughts in the comments.
1. Seek Difference In Everything We Do
“Is it different?” has been relegated to the last question, the afterthought, the bonus ball. But the last should be first.
We should tirelessly seek difference in the people we talk to, the questions we ask, the processes we follow. “Is it different?” should be the first question we ask when we look at work – both in terms of content and form.
2. Kick Out the Norms
We’ve become addicted to backward looking averages. But norms create a magnetic pull towards the conventional. Norms produce normal. The new frontier doesn’t have norms, but it does have endless supplies of data, and a rich diversity of tools with which to mine it.
We should create a data-inspired future, not a norm-constrained past.
3. Only Talk to Consumers who are Predisposed to Change
Where there is change, there are people that lead and people that follow. In research we mostly talk to followers, because there are more of them and they’re cheaper. But ultimately they are less valuable.
If we’re seeking to change markets, shouldn’t we talk exclusively to change makers?
4. Embrace Insights From Anywhere
We’ve lived for too long under the tyranny of consumer insight. Of course consumer insight can be engaging, but it can also be familiar.
Surely insights can come from anywhere and we’re just as likely to find different insights from an analysis of the brand, the category, the competition, the channel, and, above all, the task. Read full post
7th September 10
Interesting short clip of Tom Peters talking about the importance of storytelling for brands. In fact, for Peters, storytelling isn’t just important, it can be more powerful than the brand itself.
13th July 10
I joined a group of tutors and producers, half with film/transmedia projects in development, half not, from around the world for the latter half of their week away in Wales.
By way of introduction, Power to the Pixel are an organisation dedicated to supporting film and the wider media in its transition to a digital age. Ben and I are both lucky to be on their Advisory board.
My brief was to shed some light on brands and cross-platform/transmedia storytelling, which, if I am honest, initially felt a little awkward. Brands and agencies may be embracing cross-platform creativity and integration per se, but true transmedia… not so much. The likes of Campfire with their Frenzied Waters work for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week last year, Audi Art of the Heist and – back in the day – Beta 7 for Sega; as well as Ivan Askwith at Big Spaceship (who was generous and interested enough to chew the fat with me late one evening) are two, honourable exceptions.
With this in mind, my presentation focused primarily on what brands and their agencies are learning about integration, interaction and new partnerships in the hypersocial environment we find ourselves in. I also attempted to explain why brands may be reticent about taking a step further into building deep, immersive, narrative worlds. Along the way, telling the story of a (failed) BBH Labs joint venture and what we took from it… and finally, ending with a proposal.
2nd July 10
Yesterday I was invited along to Curious 01 in London. Any event with ‘curious’ in the title sounds like it might be interesting and this was. Curated by Paul Bay, a group of good & nice people turned up, including John Grant, Neil Perkin, Jon Bains, Alex Bedoya from Hyper Island and many more. Whilst the session covered a number of topics, the conversation centred around the question: what should a brand team look like in future? A subject close to our hearts here at Labs, see related posts here and here. Paul also decided to spice things up by asking a couple of us to ‘bring a provocation’… hard to resist.
There were a ton of good ideas (others) and some a little more loony (mine). For what it’s worth I’m sharing my provocation here because, as always, we’re interested in hearing what others think. A round-up of the rest of the day will be shared soon.
In a nutshell, my provocation began with the question: if clients only pay for the things they can’t do themselves, what does that mean when we work in a real-time, social web world?
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.