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  • A Desire to be Less Desirable

    29th May 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Social

    Author, Shea Warnes, Social Strategist, BBH London

    Instaglasses concept by Markus Gerke

    The problem with having a conversation is “it takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say” explained Sherry Turkle at a not-so-recent Ted Talk. That’s not the case online though. Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagrams allow us to curate, edit and filter what we want to say in pursuit of personal promotion. Ephemeral media allows us to share the moment and not live with them forever! 

    But it can be awfully exhausting. Especially, if like me, you don’t have a good eye for a good photo. There are particular times when sometimes we just want to share experiences with our friends. Unfiltered, immediate real-time moments. Moments that are being championed by the new wave of closed and/or transient  products such as Whatsapp, Kik and Snapchat.

    For brands, this provides exciting new opportunities to engage fans. Especially with reports that 700 million messages are being shared daily on Snapchat and 38 billion on Whatsapp. Despite these overwhelming numbers, only a handful of brands are really having a good crack at it. Surprising really when so many brand talk about wanting to build genuine relationships with our customers, because what better place than the channels where people feel most comfortable being their genuine selves?

    The biggest barrier for many brands wanting to build a presence is a lack of insight. Without this how are we supposed to know the content that resonates best with our audience, or even who they are? Increasingly there are studies such as Sumpto’s study on student habits which are providing that insight. In the mean time, brands are taking a leap of faith to know what content to produce and how to behave.

    Below are some starting points to get your brand in the right direction…

    Be a nice surprise – I’m on Snapchat because it gives me a different way to be have an entertaining conversation with friends. Unexpected and at times silly content that simply serves to provide moments of amusement during the drops in my day. Brands wanting to engage with me should aim to have a dialogue that shows them in a refreshing light. It is intentionally ephemeral, so brands should feel comfortable exercising their personality more through less formal content and giving access to parts of the brand a fan would not normally ever experience.

    Be a real person – The content I receive on Kik is from people at their most unguarded. They are not trying to add a filter of coolness and I’d expect that approach from any brand I followed. Have a look at MLB’s Snapchat strategy who rotate account ownership to different players and staff to keep the narrative interesting and provide a more rounded experience of the sport.

    MLB Snapchat

    Be effortlessly charming – Use it as another broadcast channel for your print campaign and I’m out. There are platforms like Facebook which are better geared for driving sales. This is important on closed platforms particularly as the ambition should be to add value without the expectancy of an immediate exchange – that’s not to say there aren’t business opportunities to be had! Whatsapp, for example, has the functionality to provide customer service better than a tweet ever could.

    Don’t expect to turn into Taco Bell overnight but start with good insight (and good manners) and someday your conversation should begin to promote itself.

  • When Everyone Talks and No-One Listens

    28th May 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in strategy

    Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
    First Published in Hall&Partners magazine, Matters.

    Max Schodl - Still Life with Samovar and Chinese Teacup

    It’s often said of the characters in Anton Chekhov’s plays that ‘everyone talks,but no one listens.’ The cast of feckless aristocrats inhabit a troubled world of melancholy, loss and ennui. They speak endlessly at each other of their dreams and disappointments, but they rarely pause to listen. Their relationships seem compromised by their own emotional deafness, their solipsism. They live lives of empty chat and listless languor, punctuated only by another trip to the samovar.

    I wonder has the world of brand marketing something in common with Chekhov’s? Could modern brands be accused of speaking without listening? Talking loud, but saying nothing? Always on project, never on receive? Do they sometimes come across as egocentric and emotionally needy?

    Sign up, sign in, sign on. Check in, check out. Like me, friend me, share me. Blipp me, bookmark me. Rate me, recommend me. QR code me. Upload me, download me. Facebook me, fan me. Tweet me, re-tweet me. Hashtag why?

    There’s a tremendous assumption in much current marketing that consumers have infinite time and attention to dedicate to brands, regardless of the category they represent or the content they serve up for them. With a wealth of new media channels available to us, it’s often easy to confuse talking with conversation, to mistake interaction for a relationship. And as long ago as the nineteenth century the writer HD Thoreau was observing,’We have more and more ways to communicate, but less and less to say.’

    In my experience strong relationships tend to start with a little humility and self knowledge. The best advice for brands seeking a relationship might be: don’t talk too much and only talk when you have something to say.
     
    But can contemporary brands really be accused of not listening? Surely all serious players nowadays manage substantial research and insight programmes. Surely we’re endlessly soliciting feedback, measurement and learning?

    Well, yes, but are brands engaged in the right kind of listening?

    To my mind much of modern research practice could be deemed ‘submissive listening’. ’Hello. What do you think of me? What do you think of how I look and what I do?  How would you like me to behave? Do you like what I’m planning to say to you? What would you like me to say?’

    Is this the stuff of a healthy relationship? Surely brands’ engagement with consumers should begin from a position of equality and mutual respect, not submission and deference.

    Au Pairs - Playing with a Different Sex

    You’re equal but different. 
    You’re equal but different
    It’s obvious.
    So obvious.

    Au Pairs, It’s Obvious.

    We could also categorise much of our research  as ‘reflective listening’: recording what people say, wear, like and do, so that brands can play it back later to them in communication. There’s an underlying assumption that consumers empathise with brands that share their values and outlook on life. I’m sure they do. But one man’s insight is another man’s cliche. And reflective listening, interpreted literally, often produces communication that is curiously unrewarding. Because dialogue is more than elegant repetition and relationships are more than an exercise in mimicry.

    Surely listening and talking should exist in close proximity and dynamic relation to each other. It’s called a conversation. And you’ll find spontaneous, instinctive, organic conversations at the heart of any healthy, happy relationship.

    Of course, the hyper-connected, real time world of the social web affords us an opportunity. It’s the opportunity to demolish the distance between listening and talking; to inspire conversations between brands and consumers; and thereby to create vibrant, enduring, sustainable relationships. It’s now possible for listening to drive brands’ thought and action, tempo and timing and we we should all be striving to put it back at the centre of our communication models.

    There is, nonetheless, a nightmare scenario. What if brands continue to propel their mindless chatter through the infinite arteries of the electronic age, without respecting our audience’s limited time and attention? What if our attempts to listen continue to betray a submissive and reflective orientation towards consumers?

    At the end of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, twenty year old Irina decides to give up on love before love gives up on her.

    I’ve never loved anyone. I dreamed about it for a very long time – day and night – but my heart is like a piano that’s been locked up and the key is lost.

    It’s one of the saddest lines in theatre. I worry that if we don’t start listening properly to consumers, then consumers will stop listening to us.

  • High-Performance Creativity: A new framework for Creative Businesses

    28th May 14

    Posted by Agathe Guerrier

    Posted in creativity, performance



    A few weeks ago, I was in sunny (but chilly) Aarhus to speak at the SPOT interactive conference.

    There are a couple things you need to know about Aarhus:

    1. It’s the second biggest city in Denmark after the capital, Copenhagen;

    2. The airport is 45km away from the town centre and a taxi will cost you £70, so take the shuttle bus, especially if you’re travelling on the Labs budget.

    I was there to talk about BBH’s answer to the challenges and opportunities that creative businesses face today. The tensions between creativity and commerce, and the question of the monetization of creative outputs in the digital economy, had been recurrent throughout the day, since SPOT started out as a music conference, and a lot of the participants (including RECHO app developers, who launched their app at the conference) were connected to the music business, which has obviously had to spend the last two decades revolutionizing its value model.

    Have a flick through the presentation if you fancy. Or read the ten points below for the gist of the keynote.

    1. BBH was founded on the belief that growth needs space, and space needs difference, and creativity is the best tool at creating difference. Far from seeing creativity and commerce as opposites, we have a fundamental faith in the ability of brilliant creativity to deliver business results.

    2. Conveniently, the IPA has actually proven through correlating Gunn report awards (a good proxy for quality of creativity) with ROI data, that creativity multiplies the effect of marketing investment by a number included between 7 (historically) and 12 (more recently).

    3. Increasing connectedness of users, platforms, objects, channels, brands, devices, life, and generally everything, means that creativity needs to adapt both its inputs and outputs in order to continue to deliver commercial success.

    4. We call this new type of creativity, High Performance Creativity.

    5. High Performance Creativity is:

    -       Rooted both in genuine user and business insight;

    -       Fuelled by real time, real world data;

    -       Connecting all of a brand or property’s touch points into a consistent ecosystem that it itself connected to culture, to deliver at scale.

    6. High Performance Creativity generates a new breed of creative ideas. Here are four examples.

    7. Data-led ideas:

    The New York Times reported that Netflix, which has 27 million subscribers in the US, found the idea for their version in House of Cards by running the numbers. The combination of the high popularity and engagement rates of David Fincher films, Kevin Spacey films, and the British version of “House of Cards” suggested that commissioning the series would be a very good bet on original programming.

    In the BBH world, a team led by Creative Technologists has recently created a digital Audi billboard in Waterloo station which runs on real-time, station-related data. Check out the video inserted in the slide.

    8. Network ideas: Sometimes the best strategy to triumph is to partner with the obvious competition. When your customers don’t care about what you make any more, think of what they do care about, and go befriend it.

    A good (and befittingly, Danish) example of this is part of the spectacular Lego recovery story. Upon realizing that kids were more interested in blockbuster film and video games than they were in small stackable bricks, they initiated a whole new collection of franchises, and in one swift move turned themselves into a successful cross-platform entertainment brand, driving growth through innovation in gaming and film partnerships such as Harry Potter and Dark Knight. More recently, this strategy has taken the form of a long-term partnership with the Cartoon Network.

    Working with our friends at Refuge, we were faced with the issue that domestic violence is an issue young women don’t want to talk about. So we found a way into their conversations by associating ourselves with a property they did want to talk about (make up and beauty) through celebrity blogger Lauren Luke.

    9. Shoppable ideas: The idea that the various steps alongside the consumer journey from awareness to purchase are separate in time and mindset is eroding in the digital age, since all phases are increasingly connected. In the new world, those steps have become layers of a single ecosystem.

    Founder Nicola Massenet describes Net A Porter as a fashion magazine that sells, rather than an ecommerce property. Quality creative content delivered by top fashion journalists and photographers, one click away from purchase: that’s inspiration and conversion wrapped into one. A winning strategy that has gone full circle this year with the launch of Porter Magazine.

    At BBH, we have recently created a product for British Airways which similarly combines inspiration and delight through content, with optimized e-commerce. Picture Your Holiday is an intuitive holiday planning tool which allows for both dreaming up and buying your next trip away.

    10. Triple Win Ideas: A lot of success stories in the world of digital products and services, come from unlocking a group of users or a type of use for the product, that wasn’t part of the original plan. So it’s always worth asking yourself who else your idea could be a win for.

    Dog-sharing services such as Tailster put dog owners in need of a sitter, with dog lovers who don’t have their own pet. Dog owners get a cheaper rate on a dog walker or sitter, and dog lovers get an hour with a dog.

    BBH Zag recently partnered with OMG Plc to create the world’s first intelligent, wearable camera.

    The partner company had created a medical product designed to help those with memory loss. We set out to help them create a mass consumer product with cutting edge tech credentials. Positioned as a life streaming and social photography tool, Autographer launched in the spring.

     

    More to come shortly on High Performance Creativity; in the meantime let us know what you think.

    Thanks go to Mette Marcussen from Shareplay  for inviting me, Paul Tyler from Handling Ideas for moderating the day, as well as all the other speakers for their inspiring points of view.

  • BBH London are hiring: Interactive Production

    13th May 14

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in People

    Author: Chris Meachin, Head of Interactive Production, BBH London

    Mid-Weight Digital Display Producer

    BBH London are looking for an experienced mid-weight digital producer with specific experience in display advertising (online banners). Mobile and outdoor digital advertising experience would be a bonus.

    The right candidate will join a growing and dynamic team working on high-profile briefs for world-class clients. It’s a demanding but fun environment.

    The role requires working directly with client teams and creatives to own projects from concept through to delivery. This includes responsibility for budgets, timing plans, general project management and liaison.

    If you are a motivated team player with lots of initiative, and would like to join a high-performing team at BBH, then we’d love to hear from you. Please tell us about yourself here, under Digital.

     

  • Inside Pixar’s Creative Culture

    29th April 14

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Books, creativity

    Author: Richard Helyar, Head of Research, BBH London

    © Disney • Pixar

    Last week Disney’s icy fairytale Frozen became the 6th highest grossing film of all time.  It had already taken more money at the box office than any other animated film in history, relegating Pixar’s Toy Story 3 to second place.  Incredibly, a two-man leadership team is behind both films and their respective studios: Ed Catmull and John Lasseter.

    So BBH was highly animated when we welcomed one half of this duo, Ed Catmull, Pixar’s co-founder and President of both Pixar and Disney Animation, to talk to us last week on his two-day visit to London promoting his new book Creativity, Inc.

    Together with the backing of Steve Jobs, Ed and John built Pixar from scratch and I doubt if anyone reading this hasn’t seen, and loved, one of their films.  Pixar’s 27 Oscars and $7bn revenue is a pretty compelling demonstration of the creative and commercial yin yang, but what is truly remarkable is that when Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Ed and John were put in charge of Disney Animation, then on its knees, and pulled off the same trick again.  Frozen is testament to their methods and it’s these methods that were the subject of Ed’s remarks.

    What I found fascinating listening to Ed was that he talked more of failure than success.  Sure, we’re all well versed in the merits of failing fast, it’s practically an internet meme, but the scale here is epic and the anecdotes are richer.  Ed shared stories about how so many iterations of new movies suck.  Really suck.  “On Up, the only thing to stay the same from the start was the bird and the word Up”.

    He went on to talk about how the best people know how to rip up months of hard graft and start again if it’s not working and how there has only been one film when the reset button was not pressed (Toy Story 3 for the record).  He concluded that “failure isn’t a necessary evil.  It’s not evil at all, but a necessary consequence of doing something new”.

    Ed went on to describe Pixar’s ‘Braintrust’.  Basically a steering committee, but one where absolute candour and a shared investment in success, ensure that even the gnarliest problems are worked through and solved.

    And what made him most proud?  Not Toy Story or Frozen, nor the awards and the revenues, but how his people react when things go wrong.  Like for instance an employee accidentally deleting 90% of Toy Story 2 during production.  Two years work by 400 people gone and the back-up failed (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened).

    Another topic he warmed to concerned people and process.  “Give a great idea to a poor team and they’ll screw it up.  Give a poor idea to a great team and they’ll either fix it or throw it away and start again”.  People trump process every time.  His barometer for how a movie is progressing?  Not the quality of the work (it will probably suck, see above), but the spirit in the team producing it.

    And it was a person not a process that Ed talked most passionately about.  No-one worked with Steve Jobs longer than Ed Catmull and he was clearly moved when talking about the compassionate side of Steve that never made the biography.  Ed finished with an observation that was pure Steve Jobs: “Making processes better and more efficient is a vital task, but it’s not the goal.  Excellence is the goal”.

     

     

  • BBH went to SXSW and this is what we found

    11th April 14

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Events, interactive

    Author: Ben Shaw, Social Strategy Lead, BBH London

    giphy

    Last month, BBH London sent 11 lucky people to Austin to discover the latest innovations that tech, film and music had to offer. Amongst the BBQ, beer and banter, they managed to find a bunch of insights about the advancement of the human race. Topics like this may only truly be delivered under a desert sky with smoked meat and a pale ale, but in an effort to distribute our learnings to a wider audience we’ve tried to distil them down into some slides (below). We looked at three topics that we think are vital to our future – as an agency and as human beings. Enjoy.

    TECHNOLOGY
    giphy (1)
    CREATIVITY
    tumblr_m5hyx6Nh3Z1rqx2fmo1_500
    PEOPLE
    412


  • On Beacons and proximity

    9th April 14

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in mobile, technology

    Another in our intermittent repostings of our monthly tech column written for Marketing Magazine. This one on why Beacons, specifically Apple’s iBeacon, might make all that proximity marketing jargon simple and actually usable. The original article appeared here on 31.03.14.

    Signal beacon at Corton Hill, Somerset, UK.

    Signal beacon at Corton Hill, Somerset, UK.

    Talk of frictionless mobile payments and proximity-based targeting has felt a little like waiting for jetpacks. We’ve all seen the diagrams of the device in our pocket sensing information from the environment around us with magical accuracy and we know it’s technically possible, but there’s been little sign of it actually happening in our daily lives.

     The phrase ‘proximity based targeting’ may not make your pulse race. But forget for a moment the clunkiness of a QR code or the basic act of swiping a card over a sensor using NFC technology (NFC tends to be capable of simple transactions only) or location-based services like checking in on Foursquare (GPS-enabled, so not fantastically accurate, particularly indoors).

    Instead, say hello to iBeacon. Unveiled by Apple last year as part of its iOS 7 launch, iBeacon is described as “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” And use that physical proximity to pass data. In Apple’s case the ‘phone (from iPhone 4 onwards) is also a beacon in its own right, capable of transmitting information not just receiving. Google is also coming up fast with beacon technology, baking it into Android 4.3.

    Two things make this particularly interesting for marketers:

    First, the fact that the beacons use Bluetooth LE (low energy), so succeed in delivering greater accuracy than GPS, whilst also draining less precious battery power. Suddenly we have the data transfer capabilities of Bluetooth, accurately pin-pointed to your exact location, now possible for a viable period.

    Second, the data transfer is passive and immediate: it seems we’re finally at a point when devices can talk to one another without us needing to do the work.

    Two commercial applications (and watchouts) to think about:

    1. Enhanced experiences

    For gigs, art galleries, stadiums and parks, strategically placed beacons allow users to pick up information about the history of a location or the background to a painting in a gallery, say, just by having their phone to hand. The exhibition owner in turn picks up useful information about where there are hot spots, blockages or dead zones. At SXSW in Texas this year, for example, the conference’s official mobile iOS app used iBeacon to send users information about the individual sessions they were in. Obviously the trick here as app developers is to judge the messaging content and velocity very carefully, ie do not spam people.

    2. Next Generation Retail

    iBeacon can work in a number of ways to change and improve a retail environment (beyond simply welcoming or issuing a coupon on arrival), for starters:

    - Act as an “indoor GPS” system helping someone find the product they’re looking for

    - Map where the best deals are for them, based on their previous shopping habits or perhaps the time of day/week

    - Develop location-specific offers, like Macy’s are doing in the USA in partnership with Shopkick, where offers are dynamically tailored to customers based on where they are in the store.

    - Beacons also make mobile payments faster and easier. Paypal are bringing out their own beacon, allowing users to make hands-free payments. The issue to overcome in the early days will be behavioural: we humans are used to physically exchanging something for goods.

    And then there are the implications for out of home advertising, on-premise, not to mention peer-to-peer and our future digital identities. As marketers this is a way to rethink how we design user interactions. Fundamentally, this technology has the potential to change how we interact with the world, not just how we shop, and it’s closer than we think.

     

     

  • When Social Went Global

    3rd April 14

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in mobile, social media

    A repost of one of our monthly tech columns for Marketing Magazine, this one on the globalisation of social media and what it means for, well, all of us. This article first appeared on 04.03.14. It sets the scene for a regular round-up here on technology in China and Asia Pacific by Carol Ong (based on her own newsletter), the first one of which is here.

    Via nasa.gov, the recreation of "Earthrise"

    Via nasa.gov, the recreation of “Earthrise”

    The comforting phrase “social is local” has echoed through marketing departments for a while now. Comforting because it suggests it’s enough to have experienced, tech-savvy people representing the brand on the ground who know their own community backyard. No question, local intelligence is vitally important. But as this year unfolds, I think we’re going to see some shifts in how social media marketing operates around the globe. Call it a new form of ‘social migration’ that global marketers in particular should pay attention to.

    I say this for a few reasons:

    1. The growth of the largest social networks now depends on new geographic territories

    If you’re Facebook, what do you do once you have 1.23 billion monthly active users on your platform (813 million of which are on mobile, 60% of whom are returning daily)? You take your now mobile-first platform, commit to making it more efficient so that it uses less bandwidth in  markets where that really matters and simultaneously set about putting the technological infrastructure on the ground to accelerate providing Internet connectivity “for the next 5 billion”; which is exactly what Zuckerberg is doing via Internet.org, announced last year. This is clearly a philanthropic and a commercial move: two thirds of the world without access to the Internet represents a giant growth opportunity. And Facebook aren’t alone in turning their attention to the rest of the world. Aside from Facebook’s partners in Internet.org (Samsung, MediaTek, Ericsson, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm), Twitter’s IPO last year revealed it was targetting Argentina, France, Japan, Russia, Saudia Arabia and South Africa for faster growth than the United States.

    2. Mobile powers the pace of the shift

    New behaviours often make existing services redundant, but the explosion in mobile penetration and usage worldwide*, creating what the World Economic Forum describes as a “dramatically altered business environment” across Africa for example, has allowed the leading social platforms to continue to grow, despite newer players arriving and scaling at vertigo-inducing pace: China’s WeChat, plus WhatsApp, SnapChat and Instagram being amongst the most salient. With social media, if your service is mobile first, a rising tide really does float all boats.

    3. Cultural importers can export too

    This time last year I was sitting in Beijing, listening to the CMO of Alfred Dunhill, Jason Beckley, speak about bringing a luxury British brand to the world. His words were refreshingly open-minded:

    “Our market is in migration,” he summised, “…and we’d be naive if we thought luxury will always be an imported idea.”

    The same is true of technology. If you want to predict the future of social and mobile, you’d do worse than watch China. It’s not just about the giant data pool. Historically dismissed for copycat innovation, the market is now home to some trail-blazing companies like the mobile company XiaoMi, with their eyes set on a global marketplace. By way of another example, take WeChat’s early rebranding for global rollout and their omnivorous approach to development (originally a messaging service, they added photo sharing & filters, games and now taxi bookings, with deeper mcommerce on the near horizon). Burberry announced a ‘digital innovation partnership’ with WeChat in February.

    In short, I’d suggest we get used to the idea of ‘guanxi’, a Chinese term meaning both personal and business networks or connections, extending into Europe and the US this year. Taobao, Jack Ma’s equivalent of eBay but several times’ the size, recently shared a list of the hottest shopping keywords used in 2013. You may think it’s too early to get excited about keeping up with the rise of tuhao, buying yellow ducks and avoiding peng ci, but as technology businesses go about smashing geographic barriers and consumption get more collaborative, I wouldn’t bet on it.

    *According to the content marketing service, Percolate, ‘pull to refresh’ is the most used gesture in the world – for more stats and analysis, check out their excellent The State of Content Marketing piece last year and more recently ‘Weibo, WeChat and the Future of Chinese Social Media‘.

    Update: check out more on XiaoMi’s international expansion roadmap here, (via Benedict Evans).

  • Thinky.done – early learnings

    10th March 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Experiments

    We’ve closed the garage door on our first experiment of 2014 over at thinky.do and there’s a post about what we learnt about bitcoin from our Open Wallet Experiment there. A few weeks ago we went public about our rebooted approach to experimentation, so what have we learnt about learning one month on?

    First off, constraints are both good and bad, or, more accurately, helpful and limiting. We set ourselves the goal of thinking up and launching an experiment, in public, in a 4 week period. And, Yay us, we got it out of the door. Just. We might have had a better conceived, better executed experiment if we’d given ourselves more time, but we might also still be in idea generation phase, filling up whiteboards with hypotheticals and possibilities instead of results and learnings. We did it, it’s done, onto the next doing.

    Second, the subject of the experiment. The extended Labs team were absolutely certain that Bitcoin was the right subject for our first foray. Everyone was talking about it, none of us understood it properly, this was our chance to learn. And learn we did. We now know how to buy it, look after it and spend it. We’ve also learnt that bitcoin is a hard thing to think about and a difficult tool to use for experimental purposes. Getting to grips with bitcoin took time and the technical restraints meant several ‘pivots’ before the Open Wallet Experiment got out there. And while we’re not bitcoin billionaires, we’re in a better position to talk to clients about the benefits and drawbacks of cryptocurrencies than we were in January.

    And lastly, how we work. We couldn’t have done anything without help from a number of people. Colleagues in BBH, partners outside (particular thanks to the guys at MediaMonks for talking us through bitcoin practicalities), people who emailed and commented on the blog and our G+ page, all helped tremendously.

    And so, on to Experiment No2. Trying to remember what we’ve learnt already, and not forget that each month we’re starting over, all over again.

     

  • Letting Companies Share Great Ideas

    10th March 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Start ups

    In his new book on creativity Sir John Hegarty cautions the creative industry to not become enthralled with technology, but instead allow technology to liberate great ideas. This is the idea behind Pie, a tool for modern teams to save and share inspiring finds and ideas.

    Pie originated in the BBH ZAG bakery and we spoke with Pieter Walraven, formerly Product Director of BBH ZAG Asia, about the things he learned during his journey from an idea to a funded startup.

    So what is Pie and how did you get the idea?

    Pie is a link-sharing tool that helps teams share and organize the zillion things they see at work every day. At BBH me and Thijs Jacobs (former BBH Asia Pacific Head of Creative Technology) noticed that people are constantly sharing and discussing inspiring things over email. We loved the culture of sharing, but we saw that sharing ideas over email is broken. It clutters inboxes and relevant finds easily get buried. After talking to other companies and clients about this issue we learned that they have the same problem. This is when started thinking about a technology enabling an open culture of sharing with the bigger vision of liberating great ideas.

    When you say you ‘started thinking about a technology’ what does that mean, how did you translate your idea into an actual product?

    What we did early on was look at the current relevant software offerings out there such as Yammer and Sharepoint and didn’t really like what we saw – who decided that enterprise software has to be dull?! So we shifted our focus to consumer apps as they’re much better at creating a great user experience.

    Obviously, we liked the visual aspect of Pinterest and found that boards are a great way to organize things. We’ve used elements from Pinterest and other popular consumer applications to design our first MVP and tested 2 hypotheses:  ‘do people want to use this?’ and ‘will people be drawn in by the visual consumer-like design?’.

    (An early iteration of the Pie MVP)

    So you tested your assumptions, what was the next step? When did you actually set up Pie as a company?

    To maximise our chances of building a successful global SaaS company we knew we had to raise external funding and attract top talent. Most high-profile strategic investors only invest in strong and autonomous founding teams so shortly after we’ve completed testing our MVP we set up Pie as a separate company with myself and Thijs as founders and major shareholders.

    As we both have prior experience of tech startups our pitch deck was mainly focused on the founding team. It also included the positive market outlook – “Adoption of Social Enterprise is Booming” – and the findings of our MVP which consisted of both usage data and the interest of potential clients.

    (Pie pitch deck: market opportunity slide)

    For structuring our financing we used a model called convertible notes. A convertible note is basically a loan that converts into shares of preferred stock upon the closing of a the next round – Series A – round of financing. Here’s a great TechCrunch article on convertible notes with all the pros and cons.

    After a few hectic and uncertain months we managed to raise our target of $800K from a list of notable investors including BBH Asia Pacific’s former ECD, Steve Elrick, a U.S.-based VC, Siemer Ventures, and Peng Tsin Ong, founder of Match.com and widely considered one of Asia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.

    So tell us a bit about your daily routine at Pie, what keeps you busy?

    It might sound obvious, but I underestimated the amount of time I have to spend on hiring. Our culture is our most valuable asset and it takes time to carefully select people that match the rest of the team. Of course it doesn’t help that these kind of people already have a great job! Basically hiring great people takes time, but luckily it gets easier as Pie’s exposure grows and we gain more international traction.

    (Pie’s stream where you can see what coworkers are collecting and sharing)

    Other than hiring me and the rest of the Pie team are 100% focused on growth. Everything we do is directly or indirectly related to growing our user base. We’re constantly iterating on Pie to improve either the user engagement or the virality. We’ve also been writing and seeding content for our target audience to attract users and have had some success with this – we’ve been live for 1.5 months and over 700 companies are on Pie ranging from Spotify to Shell. We’re seeing companies saving and sharing industry news, innovations, market data, trends, but also funny videos. Companies such as Edelman and IDEO use Pie to keep track of market trends and collaborate around certain topics. Besides internal sharing they also use Pie to share inspiration and links to relevant articles with clients.

    Proximity (BBDO) uses Pie to collect and organize UX best practices. They create boards with finds that can be used for later use. Before Pie was introduced people were storing things in email drafts or spreadsheets invisible for their coworkers to see. By collecting things on boards knowledge that was previously hidden in silos now gets exposed to the rest of the team.

    (A library of posts collected by a team on a ‘collaborative board’)

    Lastly, we regularly post interesting reads on work hacks for modern teams on our Facebook page and on Twitter and have recently released a chrome extension allowing direct posting from any website.

     

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