Posts Tagged ‘strategy’
1st May 15
Posted in data
Author: Thomas Gwin, Data Strategy Director, BBH London
As the UK general election draws ever closer, many news organisations have picked up on the fact that political parties are using software to better understand voter audiences through data mining. Some are even going so far as to call this the “first true data driven election”.
Whilst much of the rhetoric in these news articles centres around how political parties are expertly using data as a secret weapon to seduce voters, the hidden truth of the matter is that whether considered through the lens of politics or marketing, the business of turning data into competitive advantage is a tricky one. And one that advertising knows only too well about.
Brands, of course have invested in sophisticated information systems to map, classify and prioritise target audiences for decades. Segmentations based on value, behaviour, attitudes, needs – you name it. More segmentations, and even segmentations of segmentations. Deeper and deeper insight, more and more powerful, but equally more and more fractured.
And at the heart of this lurks an internal tension between brand vision and audience understanding. The best strategists will know that these are not necessarily perfectly correlated, but will also know that ignoring either will result in compromise.
This same tension manifests itself in politics between political vision and voter understanding. But for politics, this tension arguably carries a far greater risk. To understand why, we must first return to how exactly parties are using data and what consequences one of these aspects could be having.
If the message is malleable, what does this say about a political party’s identity and values?
Data isn’t just providing political parties with insight, it is also allowing them to model voter intention and, crucially, provide them with the intelligence to adapt campaign messaging to individual profiles. For instance, what campaign message should Party A prioritise to conquest Party B voters who are potential “switchers”? Is it immigration, or is it the NHS?
This is not simply about maximising efficiencies (such as concentrating volunteer efforts on marginals or improving overall campaign targeting) – by adopting data, parties are also wading into the realm of predictive analytics.
Now in the world of marketing, Google suggest and Amazon recommended products are old news. With each passing day, evidence of organisations upping their marketing investment on initiatives like “intent-based” and “personalisation” accumulates. But in the less commercially agile world of politics, this is a huge step, directly imported from recent election campaign trends in the US.
But there is a vital difference here. Where brands use predictive analytics to (hopefully) better serve customers and be more useful, political parties can use predictive analytics to adapt their messaging to convert voter share.
But if the message is malleable, what does this say about a political party’s identity and values?
Some may say, this is nothing new. That politicians have always toyed with messaging and targeting at election time based on voter information, stretching the limits of how they can acceptably position big issues without contradicting party manifesto. And in a sense this is absolutely true. But what is also true is that the scale of intelligence now feeding these decisions is unprecedented. And the fact that this intelligence – so data lubricated and insight rich – is set against a backdrop of deep political disaffection, risks further aggravating public disillusionment with politicians and the political process.
Brands and parties alike have to adapt to people
Well if anything, brands understand the need for the brand idea, the long term, enduring vision that stems from a fundamental truth. Of course, this can and should flex with culture, but it must remain consistent. Otherwise consumers stop believing in you and stop trusting you.
Brands cannot remain static and endlessly pure – to the contrary, they are in a constant process of evolution, ebb and flow, plugged into the cultural zeitgeist which they tap into and also feed from.
And this does certainly not mean ignoring audience plurality, but it does mean that creating stand out aspirational stories that transcend differences is superior to developing powerful but micro-managed communication to suit heterogeneity.
The truth of the matter is that brands and parties alike have to adapt to people. But where the best brands are able to use data and predictive analytics to stay true to themselves and even better themselves, parties risk being perceived as selling out and losing the foundation values upon which they were built.
And the sharp, concise instrument that is data, with all of its clarity and processing muscle, is not alone able to solve this tension and afford parties the clear path they so desire to drive voters to the ballot box. At least not yet.
30th May 14
Posted in strategy
Author, Jim Carroll, Chairman BBH London
First published in Advertising Week Europe supplement
I knew a man who never blinked. It was quite discomfiting. I’d not considered blinking that important until confronted with its absence. This chap just seemed a bit odd, a little lacking in emotion. Was he perhaps an android? When talking to him I couldn’t avoid the impression that he was unnaturally certain of his own opinions. And that that blind certainty was what I was finding unattractive. I realised that, whilst I like the self-assured, absolute certainty can be troubling, alienating, disturbing.
I guess that’s why I’ve always responded better to leaders who, though boundlessly confident, exhibit a sensitivity to risk and doubt, a consciousness of paths not taken. I’m rarely convinced by absolute conviction.
For similar reasons I feel certainty in advertising has always been fool’s gold. Claude Hopkins wrote Advertising Science back in the 1920s. And science has given us analytical tools and techniques that have dramatically enhanced our understanding of consumers and our ability to communicate effectively. But, however much we may wish it, science has never given us certainty.
I recently attended a stage adaptation of the great Henry Fonda movie, 12 Angry Men. At its heart it’s a celebration of reasonable doubt, and an indictment of the unreasonable certainty that so many people carry around with them. I was struck by the idea that reasonable doubt is a force for good in society. Because life is an ongoing navigation of trade-offs, dilemmas and contrary preferences. Life isn’t about certainty.
In our business I’ve seen how, many a time and oft’, the quest for unreasonable certainty has actually fostered doubt and indecision. The pursuit of total proof can close windows of opportunity and analysis paralysis can inhibit bold leaps forward.
Recently we have all been redesigning the marketing model. We have embraced the vision of a customer engagement system that is more connected, more targeted, more knowing and less wasteful. Something that learns, creates, adapts and distributes in real time. But we should not imagine that any new model will deliver unreasonable certainty. All models need ideas to animate them. And the best ideas occur at the intersection of logic and magic, at the meeting point of rationality and emotion.
What is exciting about the modern age of marketing is the opportunity it affords us to explore this happy interaction between art and science. At BBH we’ve been talking a lot about High Performance Creativity. We believe that technology enables a more intimate relationship between creativity and performance, and that that intimacy will generate better, more effective work. We believe that data should not just be big; it should be strategically insightful and creatively inspiring. We believe that performance measures should not be backward looking proofs, but live, forward-facing guides. We believe that, while High Performance Creativity cannot promise certainty, it can deliver incredible potency.
I’m reasonably certain about this.
27th February 14
Posted in People
Author: Aran Potkin, Senior Brand Strategist, Zag
BBH Zag is the ‘branding agency that ventures’ within the BBH group. At Zag, we work with both large blue chip brands and exciting start-ups, offering our clients brand strategy, visual identity and user experience design.
We are looking for a strategist to join our small senior team. Working within the strategy team you will have the opportunity to lead projects from the outset, working closely with senior team members and managing junior strategists. This is the perfect opportunity for an ambitious, entrepreneurial agency strategist looking to accelerate their career.
A Zag Strategist is a hybrid – an agency professional who can lead strategy while also managing the client and account. They will lead branding and innovation projects and create solid, differentiated brands for everything from start-ups to global businesses. They will oversee the entire consultancy project, working with the Zag design studio to bring those brands to life and writing marketing and communications strategies for launch. The strategist should have a creative, entrepreneurial spirit with a good knowledge of strategic models and processes but the ability to push the envelope and generate new ways of working and approaching briefs. We are looking for an innovative thinker with bags of energy and ambition.
Specific experience & responsibilities:
- 3+ years in strategy at a brand consultancy or design agency
- Demonstrated experience with and in-depth knowledge of digital strategy, UI and UX
- Ability to lead teams and manage projects as account/project manager
- Comfortable with clients and confident to manage the day-to-day relationship
- Experience planning, commissioning and leading consumer research (both qual and quant)
- Understanding of and appreciation for the design process – able to write clear briefs for design and work closely with designers through creative development
Who we’re looking for:
- Someone with a passion for brands and branding, bags of energy and ambition
- Entrepreneurial spirit – ready to pitch in at any level
- Creative thinker and problem-solver
- Energetic with a positive, can-do attitude
- Clear, articulate communicator
- Commercial awareness and interest
- Ability to work collaboratively within a team
- Digital fluency – many of the start ups we work with have strong digital DNA
If this sounds like you, send a cover email and your cv/resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2nd August 13
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
Like many people I was amused by Rory Sutherland’s recent piece in The Spectator, in which he suggested it might be a smart strategy for Agencies to recruit graduates with lower class degrees.
Sutherland argues that there is no evidence that ‘recruits with first-class degrees turn into better employees than those with thirds’. Graduates with lower class degrees are in fact undervalued by the market and as a result they’re less expensive and more loyal.
I thought I might contribute my own perspective to the debate and indeed my own trusty Recruitment Tool:
In my many years of working with Strategists, I have established that very smart people can reduce highly complex conundra into quite simple challenges. In this animal porno respect they have something in common with the less-than-intelligent, who see the world simply despite its many sophistications.
I have also observed that those with moderate-to-medium levels of intelligence can perceive complexity in every aspect of every problem.
This has led me to conclude that the only useful Strategists are fools or geniuses….
1st May 13
Posted in strategyAuthor: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH LondonThis is an edited version of a piece I wrote a while back for the APG. Reprinted with permission.It is a melancholy truth that the more expert I have become, the less my expertise is valued. I recognise that this may be because my dusty tales of Levi’s watchpockets,strategic chords and yin yangs lose a little of their lustre with every passing year. And I suspect I’m not pronouncing SXSW with convincing emphasis. But it may also be because Clients no longer come to me for expertise. Or at least not the expertise I imagined I had to offer.I had always thought that we Planners were akin to strategic doctors. We assessed the patients’ symptoms, we prescribed treatment, we arrived at prognoses. I imagined that sitting in four reviews a day, year after year, gave us a special authority on the anatomy of communication. I’m sure there was a time when my Clients nodded gratefully as we offered sage counsel. The blinding insight, the lyrical proposition, the Damascene conversion…There was, wasn’t there?… But modern Clients are more strategically and creatively confident than ever before. They have their own strategy departments, they’re closer to their own data, they work across more channels than most of us.They go on creative role reversal courses…I’m really not sure they come to us primarily to listen to our opinion. And I have to say sometimes nowadays it’s difficult getting a word in edgeways.It’s true, I have considered an alternative career as a bus conductor. And when the 25 year old Millward Brown consultant’s opinion carries more weight, I find myself yearning for a passing Routemaster. But advertising people are inherently positive. And so I reconsider…I am increasingly of the view that Clients don’t come to us for medicine; they come to us for therapy. And I suspect that our value resides, not as strategic doctors, but as strategic psychoanalysts.Often a successful modern Client engagement is not unlike a session of analysis. Clients begin with problems. They verbalise their thoughts, they make free associations, they express their fantasies and dreams. We listen, we interpret, we consider the unconscious conflicts that are causing their problems. We help them reach solutions through a process of self realisation.Freud, in addressing the unconscious, talked about the need to ‘unearth buried cities’. This doesn’t sound too alien to brand planning.I should at this point issue a health warning. I’m a Planner from Romford. Whilst I enjoyed Keira Knightley’s performance in A Dangerous Method, I can’t claim any japon porno particular knowledge of psychoanalysis . For me it’s just an illuminating analogy. Besides, if we were too literal about this, we’d never look a Client in the eye. And I suspect that’s a sure fire way to lose business…Let us nonetheless consider some of the basic principles that would derive from a psychoanalytic approach to Client engagement…Set out on a quest for meaning, not cure. The answers to most problems reside in the minds of the Client. We are enabling self knowledge,helping them to create their own narratives.Behave as a participant observer, not a detached expert. Analysis only works if we embark on it together, as willing equals.Embrace free association. Often we are too quick to impose order on our Clients’ challenges. Bear in mind that fantasies and dreams can illuminate unconscious conflicts.Remember, everything has meaning. Be attentive to behaviour,body language, choice of words and phrases.Look for meaningful patterns. Consider consistencies,
symmetries,repetition. Probe for the meaning within the pattern.Our time is up..I used to believe there was only one correct answer to every problem. Now I believe there are many correct answers. The challenge is to establish the correct answer that best suits the Client’s character and personality. Anais Nin famously once said: ‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’. I’m sure this maxim applies as much to strategy as it does to creative.
19th March 13
The second of series of reports from Austin, by a few lucky BBH SXSW survivors.
Author: Helen Lawrence, Strategist, BBH Labs & BBH London
The most recurring topic of conversation in Austin during SXSW isn’t the future of technology, it isn’t the principles of responsive design and it certainly isn’t what makes something viral. It’s meat. What meat to have in your breakfast taco, what meat to choose for your lunchtime ribs and what meat should top your dinnertime hot dog (I can’t believe Tim didn’t mention this in his SXSW reflections!). This is a town dominated by BBQ joints and smoking shacks. I fear that after five days there I may have the incredibly sexy combination of scurvy and gout:
However, we have a problem. One hundred thousand years ago humans still needed 2000 calories a day to function. Back then, to produce that 2000 calories we’d get through 1800 to find and produce something to nibble on. Fast forward to today’s brisket loving era and it takes 200,000 calories to produce those same 2000 calories. Our food production habits are screwed up. We waste everything: energy, resources and it even the food itself once we’ve got it to that juicy, edible point. It’s not at all sustainable. We’re messing it up, and we’re doing it quickly.
So – who is the obvious person to turn to in order to solve this problem? An astronaut of course. Nothing beats an astronaut. Ahem.
The 100 Year Starship project is using the question of interstellar space travel to get to an answer:
“We exist to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. We unreservedly dedicate ourselves to identifying and pushing the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight, while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth.”
If we’re going to have to consider exploration outside of our solar system we’re going to have think a little beyond a simply bigger rocket. One self sustaining pod hurtling through the sky; it has to keep a bunch of humans alive for a century, stop them killing each other and prevent them from getting hungry.
The space race in the 60s was a tangible one: getting to the moon is a challenge that could be imagined and solved. The 100 Year Starship Project wants to set a challenge that trickles down solutions into our own fuzzy planet in the same way. The space race has given us some of the biggest everyday technologies we use now: scratch resistant lenses, GPS and water filters for example. By posing some of the biggest societal and sustainability questions out there and considering how we’d achieve them to last 100 years in space, we can hope for properly realistic solutions to the things we’re messing up at the moment.
Meat is a big one, clothes are another. It’s a terribly energy intensive hobby. We make too many, we own too many, we wash too many and we don’t recycle nearly enough. 100 years at our current clothing rates would need a lot of wardrobes up on our space ship, not to mention cotton fields, plastics factories and silk worms. We can’t take clothes to space, despite them being such a core part of our creative identity as humans – one solution put forward by the 100 Year Starship project includes reusable sheets that we project clothes onto, allowing us to change them whenever we like.
Back to the bovines. As much as I love the idea of cows in space, wearing little cow shaped astronaut helmets, it just can’t happen. ‘Fake meat’ companies are popping up all over the place, even Twitter co founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams are investing. That’s one possible solution for our 100 Year Spaceship. What else is there?
I like the 100 Year Starship project. It frames a problem into a great story. Mae Jemison, a brilliant astronaut, told the SXSW audience that we should tell better stories, ones that inspire and ones that can bring about social change. The mature porno project neatly frames sustainability into something we can picture. There are no cheats when you’re somewhere outside of Alpha Centauri. So many of our so called sustainable solutions aren’t that at all. We feel we’re doing well when actually the problem is just popping up somewhere else. You can’t do that on a spaceship.
This makes me ruminate a bit on brand strategy – we talk a lot here about strategy being the art of sacrifice. What would you sacrifice in your brand armoury if forced to focus on the essentials? And would your brand get a spot on the starship in the first place? Is it ducking and diving, pushing superfluous issues elsewhere? Perhaps not being quite as sustainable or transparent as it could be? Whack it in a bubble and put it in space: it’s a good way to test it.
I’m excited about the 100 Year Spaceship. The hippies and the astronauts are getting it on. And damn, it’s even sexier than gout.
10th February 12
Posted in Insight
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
When I went to school there were the Sports Guys and the Music Guys.
The Sports Guys liked doing circuit training, spraying Ralgex and making noises with their studs in the shower. The Music Guys wore heavy tweed overcoats, pored over the NME crossword and argued about the relative merits of Joy Division and Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King. I liked both categories, but fundamentally I guess I was a Music Guy.
I went to college equipped with Country Born hair gel, ‘fu shoes and Radio London mix tapes. I covered my walls with album covers from Wah, Defunkt and Echo and the Bunnymen. I danced all night to James Brown and Washington Go Go. (Mine was an awkward, heavy-shoe shuffle that alienated girls more than it attracted them.)
I confess I became somewhat pretentious. But I imagine it was an innocent sort of pretentiousness. A love of words and ideas and debate. Of music, books and film.
Obviously pretentiousness is somewhat silly and self-important, but that’s part of its charm. Look at Salvator Rosa in the self portrait above from the National Gallery. He’s painted himself as a sensitive, brooding philosopher , braving a dark, stormy world. He’s carrying a Latin inscription (natch) that reads ‘Keep silent unless you have something more important to say than silence’. How absurd, how pretentious, how cool…
Last summer I visited Charleston, the Sussex country home and social hub of the Bloomsbury art set between the wars. They painted the walls and furniture, they painted each other, they discussed pacifism, ballet and the global financial crisis. They made a show of drinking coffee rather than tea. To be honest I didn’t love all the decorative artwork and I wasn’t too sure about their sleeping arrangements. But I had to admire the fact that they had a view about the world, a design for living.
When I left college I fell into advertising as I thought it was one of the few professions where we Music Guys were welcome. Advertising is an art not a science, it’s creative persuasion, lateral thought. Advertising folk cultivated curious facial hair, absurd spectacles and MA1 Flight Jackets. I felt at home.
In the ’90s our Agency produced the Levi’s campaign and I recall it referencing Ansel Adams, Hunter S Thompson, Rodchenko, Bill Brandt, Burt Lancaster and more besides. Pretentious perhaps, but also bracing stuff.
Now let’s be clear. I’m certainly not a subscriber to the view that advertising is art. At its best it’s creativity applied to a commercial end. But I do believe that creativity needs to be inspired, catalysed and nourished by a broader set of cultural references and ideas.
Of late I’ve begun to wonder whether we Music Guys have lost our way and our voice a little. I’m concerned that there may not be enough people discussing arthouse movies, German dance troupes, experimental theatre. Shouldn’t the Agency be abuzz with fevered debate about Hockney and Hirst? Shouldn’t creative reviews be inspired by more than YouTube? I worry in fact that we have become less pretentious.
Perhaps people work so hard nowadays they don’t have time to develop what Denis Healey called a ‘hinterland’. Maybe it’s straitened times. We want to be seen as sensible, rational, commercial. Maybe it’s Anglo Saxon reserve. We apply a blanket pejorative to anything slightly outside the norms of conversation and thought. Perhaps it’s British anti-intellectualism. Our TV is dominated by unreality shows, costume anti-dramas, middle brow mundanity (what Simon Schama recently labelled ‘cultural necrophilia’). Our Queen prefers Lambourn to Glyndebourne. Our Prime Minister prefers tennis to Tennyson. And his favourite read is a cook book. Maybe we’re just too busy jogging.
Whatever the source of the problem, l’ve come to rue this loss of pretentiousness. I wish people more often cited the marginal and the maddening, the absurd and sendesik the abstruse from the world of art, academia and literature. Not just because it’s interesting, challenging, funny. But because today’s obscure eccentric is tomorrow’s bright young thing. Because creativity’s favourite bedfellows are difference and diversity.
So I’ve determined that I’m going to be pretentious in 2012. And I’ll encourage everyone else to do the same.
Honi soit qui mal y pense…
21st October 11
Author: Adam Powers, Head of UX, BBH London
This week ex-Morgan Stanley research analyst, now at KPCB, Mary Meeker delivered her latest Internet Trends presentation. As always, Mary’s distillation of trends is always good value and genuine insights are peppered throughout.
For the time starved amongst you, here are some highlights:
• Though still with some ground to make up, it’s striking the number of Chinese and Russian internet companies popping into the global top 25.
• What’s more, between 2007 and 2010 China accumulated 246million new internet users – that is more than exist within the USA.
Mobilising the people:
• Mary notes that even in recessionary times breakthrough technology and services can breakout. One need only look at the extraordinary first weekend sales of Apple’s iPhone 4S to confirm this.
• 2010 QTR 4 saw more mobile devices (which includes Tablets) sold than PCs and signs that Smartphone sales outstripping feature phone sales in US/EU
• That said. still enormous unconverted user base with 835 million Smartphone users against 5.6 billion mobile device subscribers.
• Apple getting plenty of headlines right now, but it’s Android mobile devices with the remarkable quarter on quarter ramp up – jumping from 20million to 150million units shipped in between quarters 7 and 11 post-launch.
• Global mobile success story continues with app/ad revenue up by a factor of 17 between 2008 and 2011 to a figure of $12billion.
• Meeker calls out the latest trend in the evolution of human computer interaction being from text command lines to graphical user interfaces (GUI) to natural user interfaces. Yes, Steve gets a name check too.
Cash is no longer king?:
• E-commerce story continues to be one of growth through tough economic times but plenty of room to grow.
• Again the big story is growth in mobile commerce with ebay and PayPal doubling or more their gross mobile sales/payments since 2010.
• The uplift in mobile e-commerce activity has been of particularly benefit to local commerce through the plethora of location aware discount offer aggregators.
Power to the people:
• Meeker identifies overarching mega-trend as the empowerment of people via connected devices.
• She references the Twitter traffic patterns post Japanese earthquake, the fact that 200million Indian farmers currently receive government subsidy payments via mobile devices and 85% of global population are now covered by commercial wireless signals versus 80% being on electricity grid.
17th November 10
Every year Mary Meeker from Morgan Stanley amazes us with her State of the Web presentation, and this year is no exception. The presentation is immensely valuable to our profession because it highlights shifts in internet culture and identifies opportunities for businesses and marketers alike.
The most provoking part of the presentation is the Disruptive Innovation slide. PSFK had a great blurb on describing the importance of this theory:
Disruptive Innovation is what’s to blame for the success of smaller, nimbler but sometimes cheaper products or services that manage to disrupt the success or complacency of larger, traditional brand players. Think of Amazon’s continued growth and eventual ‘breaking’ of Barnes & Noble, or Netflix’s killing of Blockbuster. Meeker’s presentation lays out two ways in which this disruptive innovation can happen
The two ways that Disruptive Innovation can happen. The first is a Low-End Segment Strategy by offering a product or service at a very low cost and then move up market. The second is called a Non-Consumption Strategy which basically means true innovation where consumption didn’t exist prior to the product being available.
We have the presentation embedded here for your enjoyment. Please tell us what you found interesting? What worries you about this data? What excites you about this data?