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?
19th May 10
Authors: Brad Haugen, Hal Kirkland & Masa Kawamura (@BBHNewYork)
Asher Roth is an artist who is uniquely in touch with his fans. After all, his brand was brilliantly built on the back of the web community Ning. This platform forged bonds and fostered conversations between Asher’s team and their fans. Since the end of his first tour, everyone was simply waiting for what he would do next.
So while this project arrived at an extremely busy time at BBH New York, the opportunity to work directly with an artist who encouraged creative freedom, and to experiment both conceptually and with new technologies, was super exciting; a luxury not often afforded within every advertising brief.
Luckily Asher, an incredibly web-savvy and prolific blogger knew what he wanted from the start.
“I want my website to really show my fans who I am. I want them to realize that I am just like any of them, and that I’m human. It has to engage them on that level.”
It didn’t take long before the idea for the site began to evolve. Of course, after some initial concepts were discussed, we had to make sure what we were suggesting was even possible, hence partnering with the geniuses at AID-DCC in Japan, a production company renown for pioneering the introduction of augmented reality into Flash.
The way the site works is simple; an illustration of the website is printed on a card around the size of a credit card. Whenever a photo is taken of the card by Asher or one of his buddies and uploaded, that photo instantly becomes the top-page of asherrothmusic.com. Meaning Asher can literally carry his website in his wallet and fans can follow him wherever he goes.
When fans visit the site, the first thing they see will be the latest updated picture, which could be anywhere from Asher holding the card on stage at a performance, to Asher watching TV with his buddies. Each image is dated and labeled, so fans can make a connection with the context in which the photos was taken.
Using FLARToolKit, the program tracks the design and shape of the card and then literally launches the site’s interface from its surface. Each graphic element then matches the exact color of the card therefore enhancing this illusion and giving the site a visually organic quality that matches Asher’s style.
The next step for the site is to connect with the fans even more and to get them to submit their own photos. The next album release will have the card featured on the cover. In this way, fans can become a part Asher’s site as well and help to build the already pretty crazy library of photos.
The platform is also totally geared to maintain engagement. Several sponsorship and competition strategies will be implemented over the course of the year, each providing both fans and sponsors a reason to keep coming back.
BBH-ers have worked on music projects before, not least for MySpace (see: http://j.mp/7nFiYF). But this project taught us many things about the music industry. While it’s a creative industry, for the most part, music labels tend to be a little old-fashioned and somewhat formulaic when it comes to promoting their artists. Even though an artist may be promoted via many channels and social networking platforms, sometimes the user experience can come across as a bit of a box-ticking exercise i.e. must have Facebook page, MySpace, blog, etc, instead of thinking an original way that the artist can legitimately connect with their fans.
With Asher, we were lucky to have an artist who is also a creative thinker and is willing to take a leap of faith in order to keep his brand authentic, especially since the technicalities of the concept were difficult to articulate in the beginning. On complex projects like this it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia, rather than merely concentrating on the bigger picture. Asher really gave us some breathing room, and the project benefited greatly as a result.
Asher has really opened a window so that he could share his day-to-day life and experiences with his fans. It’s a direction that many others in the music industry could learn from. Of course, it helps a great deal if the sentiment is as sincere as his.
Overall, the site is far better represented by exploring it for yourself, in which case we hope you do.
It would be great to hear any feedback as it is in a constant state of development.
But before we go we’d just like to put a big thanks out there to everyone that made it possible.
Creative Directors: Masashi Kawamura, Hal Kirkland
Art Directors: Masashi Kawamura, Hal Kirkland
Technical Director: Tomohiko Koyama (Saqoosha)
Designers: Yuri Morimoto, Masayuki Nishimura
Business Director: Brad Haugen
Account Director: Lindsay Kopec
Content Director: David Wilsher
Project Manager: Yoko Yamazaki
Flash Developer: Tomohiko Koyama (Saqoosha), Kenji Mori
Programmer: Masaru Kinoshita, Tomohiko Koyama (Saqoosha)
Illustration: Yuri Morimoto, Yumi Yamada
Music: Asher Roth
Production: AID-DCC, Katamari
19th May 10
Author: Heidi Hackemer (@uberblond), Planning Director, BBH New York
We just went through recruitment for our upcoming internship program, the BBH Barn, and since we announced our six interns from the 150+ applications we’ve received a lot of questions about our selection criteria.
Whether literally or figuratively, the candidates that made the cut had a two-column resume. In column A, we saw an interest and understanding of advertising and/or consumer and brand interaction. It doesn’t mean that these interns are advertising experts by any stretch of the imagination, but it does mean that they have an appreciation for it and may know a bit of their way around our world. 98% of the applications checked off this column quite well.
The second column is where things got interesting: we also looked for candidates that had a bit of “mess” in their resume, i.e. a curiosity, a drive to think about and do things beyond pursuing the perfect advertising career. As a result we have filmmakers, activists, dancers and a guy that has worked in third world development.
We believe the mess is just as important as the “proper” education and inputs: advertising is one of those fields that should collaborate not only internally, but with culture at large – to be relevant and human we should inhale the world around us, circulate it in our lungs a bit and then exhale our response. The minute that we get too obsessed or spend too much time focusing on what happens within our walls or the minute the great love in our life becomes a widget or :30 second idea is the minute we lose the oxygen that we need to make great work.
Let’s face it, the people that are purely obsessed with advertising (and we all know them and have phases in our own lives where we’re guilty of being one of them) aren’t the people that contribute much to a truly sparkling dinner party or a stupid fun night out or bring a perspective that really changes things. So we wanted to make sure our Barn was filled with the dinner-party-rockers of the future. We think it will make for a more interesting summer and better work.
So here’s where it gets cool:
We were thinking of the above criteria, that we applied externally, and we thought we’d check internally how well we were doing. We asked BBHers in the NYC office to send along their personal, out of office, projects. We had a whole bunch of stuff submitted. Some highlights included:
Calle Sjoenell @callesjonell wanders around new york and puts up basketball nets where there are none. http://www.flickr.com/photos/callesjonell/sets/72157621869375075/
Harper Reitkopf @itsharper pretty much lives at the honey-space gallery to help artists do their thing http://honey-space.com/
Dane Larsen @dlarsen is documenting the life and times of his Brooklyn backyard this summer http://bklynbkyard.com/
Brad Haugen @hoogs throws his passion into being the Director of Marketing and Brand for Pencils of Promise, a non-profit that helps build schools in third world countries http://www.pencilsofpromise.org/blog/2010/04/bring-out-lead-forth/
Zach Hilder keeps an awesome blog of his drawings and photographs http://deathfrom.blogspot.com
Kris Chu @kris_chu documents his struggle to banish cable from his life: http://suckitcable.blogspot.com/
Colleen Leddy @colleddy blogs tips about being the impeccable bridesmaid http://holdthebouquet.squarespace.com/
Kenji Summers @kenjisummers gives time to the Marcus Graham Project, a network of diverse advertising, marketing and media people @MGProject
Kirsty Saddler @keava has taken her personal passion for corporate social responsibility and started a think tank/action group within BBH called the Hive @BBHhive
Chris Araujo @cornfedchris is working on a soon to be unveiled project that’s all about making the world a better place and that’s all I can say about it right now upon fear of death.
Miranda Kendrick @mirandakendrick has two culture grabbing blogs: http://workingitatwork.tumblr.com/ that shows off the beautiful people of BBH and http://nyink.blogspot.com/ that shows off the beautiful tattoos of the world.
Hal & Masa have been busy working on the follow up to their Webby-winning music video for “Hibi no Neiro” (Tone of everyday) by “Sour” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfBlUQguvyw (watch this space)
And me? I’ve started the Wilhelmine Project, a mini-gallery that is hosted in the display window of my converted storefront apartment in the East Village http://thewilhelmineproject.com & @wilhelmineprjctThe most striking thing about all these projects is that people just did it. Google have their awesome and rightly famous 20% policy; we don’t have that at BBH, at least not formalized. So what makes the above particularly cool is that people just went out, made time and did. No one told them to, no one asked for the time. No permission was sought, or given. We think this is emblematic of the kind of creative business we strive to be, that the energy, thinking and output from these personal projects explicitly and implicitly makes BBH a more interesting and smarter place professionally.
So our question today is, what’s your 20% project?
Are you busy waiting for permission?
Or are you busy just getting on with it?
Let us know what you’re up to. You never know, there might be some common ground; we could collaborate.
18th May 10
Posted in Uncategorized
Author: Saneel Radia (@saneel), Director of Media Innovation, BBH New York
I’ve written about social media flings before, but all the recent buzz about privacy issues got me thinking about this subject again. Brands are obsessed with friends and fans in social media environments when a much more relevant (and achievable) goal would be a less committed relationship: a fling. Why ask so much from a consumer when most brands fail to deliver on expectations anyway? The number of brands I’ve met with an editorial calendar and iterative community management strategy is so few, I can count them on one hand. Yet, the gathering of fans / followers / cults prods aimlessly on, justified via the value of earned media. The idea of talking to a million people whenever you want — that’s just too good to not pursue, right?
I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m too demanding as a consumer, but I have a tough time with the “in or out” invitation posed by most brands. I was talking to @hashembajwa about this recently and he cited the following example: “I love and am loyal to Virgin Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear from them at any point other then when I have London on my mind.”
That comment really struck me. For him, it was about context. And that’s really what a fling is. It’s like a camp friend— that kid you were super close with at camp. You couldn’t imagine a scenario at camp he or she wasn’t a part of. But, once you got back home, regardless of promises to call and write, it didn’t happen. It just wasn’t relevant to stay in touch back in your normal life. But hey, next time you were at camp, you two picked up right where you left off, no? That’s the perfect camp friend.
So why aren’t brands OK with relationships like that? Context isn’t such a bad thing. It’s what good media planning is all about. And if the main arguments for these ludicrous fan numbers I hear brands chasing is rooted in earned media, it seems only rational they would evaluate said media based on quality, as they do with all media.
And that’s the rub.
You see, context of any kind is where brands face the privacy issue square in the face. They need to know as much about a person as possible to have these flings. Most brands on Twitter, for example, wait until you’ve called them out by name before @-replying because they fear otherwise their tweets will be viewed as spam. It’s the same expectation you’d have as a consumer in Facebook. What if a brand waited until your status was relevant to them to reach out to you? “@hashembajwa, I see you you’re excited about dinner in London, would you like some help planning your trip? – Love, Virgin.” Scary for many people. But enticing as a brand. And that’s why most brands are going to sit quietly while Facebook takes its lumps and sorts out privacy on their behalf. I guess they’ll depend on creating their own context via campaigns, but that’s pretty darn hard.
So, if you’re a brand with something at stake here, would you step in? I can’t imagine brand managers want any part of that conversation, but I think it’s important they have one. Without some understanding of what the pros and cons of the privacy issue are, Facebook is left alone as big, bad brother. In reality, lots of brands would help consumers tremendously if given the opportunity via this type of context. Yet no brands are stepping up, even as a collective, to help consumers understand if there is another side to the privacy issue. How can we expect consumers to make an objective decision about something when they aren’t hearing any upside?
Because, talking to a million fans about camp while they’re in school might feel like a relationship, but I’d argue making out with them while they’re at camp is a lot more social.
Or at the very least, it’s more fun.
14th May 10
During the eruption of the volcano that no one can pronounce (or barely even spell) Sean Stiegemeier took his Canon 5D Mark II out and produced this rather ace short film, set to music sung by Jónsi (lead singer of Icelandic band Sigur Rós).
We like the ethereal music mashed up with something that is, essentially, destructive. Violently elemental. Yet beautiful.
For best effect set to HD and then go full-screen. Turn it up.
He notes on his Vimeo page (full of other very cool projects – check it out):
“So I saw all of these mediocre pictures of that volcano in Iceland nobody can pronounce the name of, so I figured I should go and do better. But the flights to get over took forever as expected (somewhat). 4 days after leaving I finally made it, but the weather was terrible for another 4. Just before leaving it got pretty good for about a day and a half and this is what I managed to get.
Wish I had more time. I missed all the cool Lightning and the Lava of the first eruption. But I figure this will just be a trial run for another day.
I am of course accepting sponsors to send me back there for more please…!! haha
© Sean Stiegemeier
Many thanks to @finnbarrw for the heads-up.
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
7th May 10
Author: Calle Sjoenell, Executive Creative Director, BBH New York
Over the last two weeks I have noticed an interesting phenomenon around people with iPads. Maybe it’s because I haven’t got one yet (I’m trying to refrain until my birthday) so I’m more aware of those who do have them already. Right now I can have more of an outsider’s view on this new device.
That said, it’s become apparent that I’m far from an outsider. Barely an opportunity goes by for someone with an ipad to share something with me. “Check this out”. “Look at this”. “Let me show you something”. Users seem to want to show off new apps, cool new vids (and of course the device itself). I am very often drawn into the experience others are having around the iPad. We literally gather round, pull up chairs.
Unlike a laptop, it’s super easy to ‘turn and share’. Unlike the iPhone, it’s genuinely shareable (the iPhone is unashamedly personal, even private). With the iPad you can gang around at least three, four people to see something together. It all feels very natural.
So I’ve been thinking, is this one of the true revolutions with the iPad? It’s the first truly communal computer. Almost like sharing stories around the campfire.
If that’s the case, how should that impact how we design content and applications for it?
An idealist who wants a realist form of government: the UK election candidate offering digital democracy
30th April 10
Author: Kirsty Saddler, Planning Director, BBH New York (@keava)
BBH is strictly non-partisan and typically avoids politics, but is intrigued by an independent candidate standing for Hackney South and Shoreditch this election who has taken mainstream digital behavior and applied it to politics, so offering a new model for voters.
Denny de la Haye is no career politician and has never had any party affiliation. He is instead motivated by a belief in a better political system. So he is standing with no policies and the promise of direct democracy; if voted in he will poll constituents before he votes on any issue or piece of legislation.
He believes that while there is apathy about political voting, people’s support for issues is rising – as digital has facilitated more activism and support for issue based organizations.
“If you allow people a forum and a say they will use it, but they are not motivated to vote politically as they are disillusioned by the system. The UK political system has people in positions of power who answer to a party, before their voters”.
De la Haye is aware that his system relies on people remaining consistently engaged, but this is where his experience as a web designer kicks in and he draws on participation models like Digg and Reddit.
For issues and legislation he will endeavor to get people reading around the issue to inform themselves. To do this he will post an objective synopsis of government’s texts online – inspired by Simplyunderstand.com ‘translation service’ – links can then be added to the synopsis by constituents, which can in turn be rated so the most valuable rise to the top.
It will be crowd-sourced information, without any party bias.
De la Haye’s model would become more valuable over time, as people realized the power of influence they could exert as exemplified by Obama’s election campaign and the model would build a representative picture of constituents views and how the constituency had changed over time, which can be tracked and learnt from.
If followed through it would also do away with the need for party politics, however it is still likely people would cluster around ideologies – but perhaps more their own, not those dictated by a small group of people.
So . . . back to BBH’s real interest here which is how could this work in the business and marketing world. What would happen if shareholders were done away with and there was a model based more on interest invested by people through contributions of time and/or ideas?
This suggests a world of crowd-controlled brands and an open dialogue where the brand does not assume a position of authority or expertise but is accountable to its public. It does not necessarily work for all sectors, but surely more brands could open themselves up in this way, know their place and just facilitate?
Where has this worked before and where has it failed? Could this ever really work? Love to know what you think.