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What time is love? January 13, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, creativity, technology.
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From the equal parts genius/niceness that is Andy Whitlock and the team at Poke.

In December, we had a hack day at Poke. In a nutshell, we had 24 hours to come up with an idea and make it an online reality…Our team’s idea was to create an egg-timer that served up a Youtube video to match the exact length your egg needed to be boiled for. No staring at the egg. No staring at a boring timer. Just watch the video and you’re done. And it dishes up different videos depending on how you like your egg. Have a look for yourself over at eggwatchers.com.

<3. Srsly. The importance of this sort of thing perhaps won’t be immediately apparent to anyone who still wants to make TV commercials. For the rest of us, we can be thankful places like Poke exist.

And dream of working there.

P.S. I’ve tagged this in the “branding” category of this blog to make a point – it’s activity like this that builds Poke’s own brand. The same way traditional agencies built their names on their work, so too do the modern shops, the difference being only one of those groups is still willing to run with the bulls.

On the road again October 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, intent, marketing, philosophy, work/life.
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Cover of
Cover of On The Road

I have had Jack Kerouac‘s On The Road given to me a gift to keep at least three times. I imagine some combination of traits my friends spotted in me (wannabe-philosopher mixed with restless-and-easily-distracted) focused their attention on this book. When people visit, they remark on the copies that line my shelf:

“You liked it enough to buy it twice?”

“No. I ignored it long enough to be given another.”

This is not about that book though. This is about perception (and a little intent).

Your friend and mine Mark Earls referenced a piece from Lynne Truss in the UK’s Sunday Times in which she states:

…I like to see what other people are reading on the bus or the train; how far they’ve got; whether they’re enjoying it. It seems to me that such information needs to be public for the good of us all and I’m sad to think of reading in public places ultimately becoming so private…

Lynne was lamenting the arrival of E-Readers and the disappearance of actual book and magazine covers from the parks and cafes and public transport systems of the world, along with the loss of a shared look or a fleeting conversation about the work at hand.

Lynne Truss’ worry stems from the removal of social identifiers in public spaces; it seems we don’t just judge a book by its cover, but the reader as well. I smile whenever I see another grown-up reading Harry Potter in public, because I remember being consumed by those books and also embarrassed to have them out in public without an 8 year old in sight. We use these things (and clothes, iPods, cars and holidays) to signal via the perceptions we assume others will have. My intent given my office wardrobe today of boho-cardigan and falling apart at the seams (but limited edition John Varvatos-collaboration) Converse sneakers, is to signal something true about myself; unfortunately that truth is little more than the clothing equivalent of the never opened copies of Kerouac’s masterpiece, or as I wrote in Everyone 2.0, you’re unique.

Just like everyone else.

I have friends (they shall remain nameless because I love them dearly) who have taken great pleasure in displaying tomes they have conquered in the name of enlightenment. These friends drew more pleasure from others seeing they had read (or at least bought) the appropriate books than perhaps they did from the work itself. On The Road is a book a selection of my friends feel I am supposed to have read, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, something someone says I am supposed to do instantly defaults to the thing I am least likely to do. Their intent is to help me appear a culturally astute and well-rounded individual; my intent is the equally pretentious attempt to thumb my nose at convention simply for the sake of it.

Now, my favourite magazine is British GQ as its collection of columnists is a veritable who’s who of the UK’s newspapers. They are regularly funny and insightful and it pains me when the publisher stoops to putting a scantily clad woman on the front cover, partly because the writing is better than that suggests but also because I then feel the need to explain to others, much as the joke about Playboy goes, “I read it for the articles.” Perception reveals, or so we would assume, intent. Perception is also said to be reality, and so given the option of tangling with the looks I imagine women might give me on the subway in the mornings, I opt for Wired and instead leave Heidi Klum in her various states of undress on my coffee table for next Sunday (sorry dear, you know how it is).

Back to the Kindle, on one hand I like where we’re heading as I could potentially just read A.A. Gill‘s column without wondering if someone’s nipple is slipping out on the other side for the rest of the train to see.

On the other hand I’m envisioning a birthday not too long from now, where a gift arrives as a download along with a note “Didn’t see it in your “Read Items” list on Amazon and thought to myself David is supposed to have read books like this!!

The identifiers are perhaps moving out of the physical world in some ways, I doubt however this will have much impact on the intentions we have for everyone else’s lives.

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You were always on my mind September 30, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, strategy.
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In a meeting yesterday as I sat dreaming up ideas to make my wealthy clients even more money, someone blurted out “We need to ensure they stay top of mind” which I didn’t like at all. It sits alongside “the big idea” and “single-minded proposition” as a decidedly 20th century approach, and the reality is none of the brands people really want to be have anything to do with being top of mind.

The top-of-mind approach in fact is a challenger brand’s mentality. If you aspire to be top of mind you’re clearly not winning in your category, and you’re likely spending a good deal of time and energy just trying to compete. It’s the same as making a case for a piece of work focused around time with brand, while never pausing to consider just how much time is spent without.

The trick to both of those things is that the brands that are really thought of as top of mind, the Apples and Nikes and what have you, aren’t top of mind at all. In fact if they were to become top of mind, it would be a step back in some ways.

Those brands transcend any notion of “mind” and instead ingrain themselves in culture. I don’t just think of Apple when I’m shopping, and I don’t just think of Nike when I see someone run. They are the brands everyone else wants to be because nobody pauses to think about them.

So don’t bother with top of mind. Save that for the guys in second place, they don’t know any better anyway.

image courtesy of Esparta with thanks to compfight.

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All I wanna do is to thank you June 16, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, business strategy, conversation, marketing.
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Readers who recall my 5 step marketing mantra will remember point 5 stated the most remarkable thing you can have is exceptional customer service. We’re sadly still in a place where a number of organisations don’t get this, due in large part to the customer service departments being seen as a necessary evil, a cost of doing business. As a result, the people staffing these roles are not empowered to simply solve problems and instead are hamstrung by rules designed to elicit the bare minimum of support; enough to keep the customers at the table but not nearly enough to actually make them happy to be there.

The contrast between the great and the not so great was rammed home for me recently thanks to a lousy experience with one of the world’s largest magazine publishers and one of the world’s smallest cafes. Those who know me know my love for coffee is wholly unbridled, bordering on obsessive. They will also know the outright contempt I hold for the Starbucks of the world, suffice to say North America is not David-friendly when it comes to my dark master.

Reach out and touch somebody

Reach out and touch somebody

Thankfully here in Toronto I have found Balzac’s, an independent coffee house which roasts its own beans and makes, quite simply, the best coffee I’ve had here so far. Having fallen in love with the store-bought goods I began ordering online, and when the first batch showed up, I was greeted with a hand-written card, offering up a 15% off code for my next order and a note about their Facebook application.

Let’s review that people:

  • I already love the product
  • They’re making it cheaper for me to get
  • AND they’re offering me another way to interact with their brand.

Contrast this with Conde Nast, who told me, when my issue of Wired failed to appear (while my co-workers waltzed around with their’s) that I needed to wait 2 weeks before they could fulfill a missing order. Having waited patiently, I contacted them at the appropriate time to be told:

We are sorry to inform you that the issue you requested is no longer available.

To be fair, they then told me my subscription would be extended by an issue, but this is not the point. I understand magazines are having a hard time of it lately.

Can I suggest though the ways to innovate in your business model are not to deprive people of the thing they desire in the interests of saving a couple dollars.

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I hope that someone gets my, I hope that someone gets my… June 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, conversation, storytelling.
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My Gmail inbox was out of control. I had over 1300 unread emails in it. Part of that is due to poor email handling habits on my end, but it’s also due to a lot of people sending me information I don’t want or need.

My Google Reader is also overflowing, but it’s full of content I have asked for, stuff I want and, very occasionally, need. in catching up on my feeds over lunch just now though, I came across the below video from Gary Vaynerchuk.

posted with vodpod

I have a lot of friends working in PR, I hope they watch the video. More than that I hope their clients do too.

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The best around – June 12th, 2009 June 14, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, branding, business strategy.
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So this week I tweeted about an agency website which both had me giggling and marveling at its inventiveness. The agency in question, Boone Oakley is leapfrogging the notion an agency needs to have an impressive corporate site with not having a site at all. Instead, they have a video on YouTube which they have taken the time to build specifically for the platform, leveraging it in a way that is custom tailored to the site; it is not only a uniquely digital execution, it adheres to still fringe ideas around the distributed web and making your very presence as distributed as possible.

Plus it is very, very funny, and at 300,000-plus views, I imagine not only a bunch of disgruntled agency employees agree, but a host of disgruntled clients. To the companies out there who for some reason think they can get away witha  mediocre presence online and “let the work speak for itself“, think again.

While we’re on the work though, Goodby & Silverstein have a lovely piece up for telco Sprint. It is an execution unique to YouTube as far as I’m aware, following on from the brilliant Wario execution Nintendo had – I imagine this sort of thing will occur more and more as Google attempt to plug the US$500 million hole in the ship that is the world’s most popular video sharing site. Users upload videos of themselves making a number via the ad and then are inserted into the appropriate spot in a banner that takes the idea of a digital clock to a new level. Check it out at BannerBlog.

Last but not the least, the biggest shift online this week is coming courtesy of Facebook. They’re falling inline with most social networks and services and allowing personal URLs to be registered (e.g. http://Facebook.com/DavidNGillespie). This has previously only been open to brands at a cost, the indomitable Gary Vaynerchuk has more:

more about “Gary Vaynerchuk – Why Facebook fan pa…“, posted with vodpod

Take care everybody, and please let me know if you come across something during the week that simply has to be seen.

Standing on the rooftops, shouting out June 4, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging, branding, conversation, digital strategy, technology, work/life.
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I think I need to start a competition amongst readers to see who can pic the song each post’s title is from. Here’s a hint:

Anyway, your friend and mine Tim is fond of saying “To understand change, you have to be part of it.” Now, he perhaps didn’t come up with that himself, but I am always reminded of him whenever I think of it, which is as good an exercise in branding as you’ll find.

With this in mind, I have spent some time this morning trying to bring my own silos of conversation together. My marketing self tends to exist only on this site, but my musician self is spread across Facebook, MySpace, iLike, YouTube, and God knows where else. Oh, not to mention another website of his own. Now, I do my best to keep my two selves separate, but bear with me for the purposes of this conversation.

It goes without saying that nobody working full time has the means to update all of the above sites, let alone engage the way we all insist we should. On top of that, there’s a requirement for authors who establish these sites to get a little more versed in the nuances of the technology than they’re otherwise compelled (or able) to do. What it means is more time spent tweaking the various underpinnings of a site or service and less time doing the things you started a site for in the first place. Cue frustrated creators and audiences in silos.

David Jones (a person, not the store) is a guy I’ve come across here in Canada. I spotted him tweeting one day “Don’t tell me what you would have done, tell me what you did.” – and that really struck a chord. Talk of best practices is all well and good, but evidence of how you’ve implemented it for yourself and others is much better. For the time being, until the big players in this space decide to make their platforms talk to each other, we all get to take part in a zero-sum race to a dead end.

Now I can understand each platform’s desire to control the artist dashboard, as the eyeballs are currently what gives them value. The reality however is if the smaller players don’t make it easier to pick up syndicated content, they’re going to see a reduction in usage.

I want to make it easy for people to consume my content in whatever manner best suits their existing habits. Turning that into a reality however currently means an ultimately unsustainable adjustment to my own. Something’s gotta give.

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This is the great adventure April 13, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, business strategy, conversation, creativity, storytelling.
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Every time I play a gig, people ask me if I’m nervous, which I almost always am. And I think that is the way it is supposed to be – if I’m not nervous then nothing is at stake. If nothing is at stake then why am I here? What am I going to learn I don’t already know? What will the audience experience if I’m not pushing myself to some place I haven’t been before; if I know I’m not going to fall, there is simply no elation in flight.

Your friend and mine Sean Howard touches on these points in a recent post, The Scariest Thing I’ve ever Done. In it heleverages an eBook he published called The Passion Economy (rockstars Gavin Heaton and Katie Chatfield contribute as well). It’s a candid assessment of his work, and he’s honest about fis failings. More to the point though, he makes a case for purposefully putting yourself into those awkward and unknown territories. He’s preaching to the choir with me, and, I hope, you as well.

If he’s not, then why are you here?

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I’m a faker March 16, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding.
1 comment so far

From the “You know better than to eat those” department.

Chewy Chips Ahoy!

Chewy Chips Ahoy!

Wait, what does that say at the bottom?!?

Made with real chocolate chips!

Made with real chocolate chips!

Real chocolate chips? Picked by immigrant-labour hand fresh from the chocolate-chip tree? Flavouring rabbit droppings and mixing them in would make a more natural cookie for God’s sake!

Can you tell it’s Monday?

Give me gin & tonic March 13, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, storytelling, work/life.
5 comments
A Most Unusual Gin...

A Most Unusual Gin...

I’m not a big spirits guy, but I love gin. My favourite, Hendrick’s, is by it’s own admission “Not for everybody.” This little booklet that comes attached to every bottle I adore. It is of course sperfluous to the gin, but extends the brand beyond a drink. You could argue it shouldn’t be about more than the contents of the bottle, but that wouldn’t help explain why Coke’s market cap is valued at only $60 billion in assets, but $120 billion when you take brand into account (thank you The Brand Gap).

Hendrick’s also back it up with a great product site, which moves over into something a bit more experiential with The Unusual Times.

I love this because:

  • I already dig gin, so I’m predisposed and biased
  • It doesn’t take itself seriously, therefore digs into Mr. Ries’ law of candour
  • It makes itself a social object, and larger than the drink
  • Like the Nike’s and Apples of the world, it loves something above its product, in this case the peculiar, and expresses that in the form of a drink the Wall Street Journal named “Best Gin in the world” in 2003
  • The story around the drink makes it tribal and is a clear distinction between those who drink Hendrick’s and those who ask for Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire. That connectedness is crucial in this day and age.

I think it’s about G&T time…happy weekend everybody.

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