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We’re cool. No, we’re not. October 30, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in branding.
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I was chatting with my CEO the other day about our brand; what is inherent in it, where we want it to go. Any time I ask him what we are, he says “We’re cool!”, and I just shake my head. Perhaps it’s a crucial aspect of the GenX/Y divide, but I see this problem with so many brands, shouting from the roof top how relevant and interesting they are. The crux of the matter is you’re only interesting if other people say you are; otherwise you’re just conceited and out of touch.

By way of demonstrating relevant corporate culture, I showed him Vimeo’s Harvey Danger lip-synch. A great video rife with the culture of the office it stems from, they apparently started receiving CV’s from people saying “I don’t know what you do but I’d like a job”. To inspire people in that fashion, to get them excited about what your company stands for can drought-proof you against times when your offering falls flat. Your products might not always meet the needs (or even wants) or the market, but if your core culture remains appealing to your audience, it means you’ll get another shot with the next thing you do – provided you’re still in business of course.

I had breakfast with a great, great man this morning who works for another company we kinda compete with (I say kinda because it’s not black and white but I don’t want to get into semantics right now). He was talking about how his company has spent quite a bit of time trying to position themselves in a certain way, but at the end of the day they are perceived how they are perceived and they’re not convinced they can change that in a dramatic fashion without alienating their core users. Fortunately for them, they’re the market leader by a long way, so it doesn’t really matter; an entirely different position to being a start-up.

Getting back to the Vimeo clip though, I imagine that would intimidate as many people as it turned on. But with the nature of even the most staid professions changing (I call several accountants “friend” who are not remotely stereotypical), I’m excited by a time in the not too distant future where big corporations find a way to redefine the way they do business while still delivering on their core offerings. Could Ernst & Young get away with injecting the life that exists inside the four walls into their external communications and retain its market position? I don’t know, but it would be exciting to find out.

I want it ’cause I want it ’cause I… October 29, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, web 2.0.
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I have sometimes enviable, sometimes not enviable position of being THE digital guy in a small start-up dominated by traditional media folk. The ridiculous thing about the situation is it is a web-based business, and as such you would think the place should be flooded with people who live and breathe this stuff; the reality is the CEO, from a traditional media background has mixed feelings about online, even if he himself can’t deny that it is the future, the whole future (and nothing but the future).

Being the Lone Ranger though does have its advantages. For example, I’m always the guy who finds the cool new thing to show. I run our weekly WIPs each Monday morning and always make sure to show people something they haven’t seen before. The role is part educator, part evangelist, and if I wasn’t the guy who people stared at when there were site errors, it would be perfect. They haven’t quite gotten their heads around the fact that you can be the digital guy and still not know how the code actually works; telling them it’s about understanding the philosophy behind coding more than knowing the code itself is an exercise in futility. Plus, I have guys who are good at that, and there’s no room for doubling up.

This morning I showed them a great video titled “The Machine is Us” (found via Ian Tait’s CrackUnit). This lead immediately into a conversation about YouTube and the web and how we should be more involved. Now, this should excite me, the fact that the company I’m trying to inspire to do things differently gets animated and discusses the medium’s potential.

But it doesn’t.

And it doesn’t because instead of talking about how our company can get more involved, how we can talk to our audience and even what we want to say to our audience, people get bogged down on the medium. My company wants to be on YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace etc. because it is web 2.0 and we should be doing it. Not because they’re excited about the conversation, they’re excited about the medium. And if we have learned anything, it’s that mediums are the least important part of the conversation.

Or, as was stated much more eloquently on Gaping Void, “The main thesis is that it’s not the wine per se that is interesting, it’s the conversations that happen around the wine that is interesting. And that is true for all social objects. People matter. Objects don’t.”

Until my company figures that out, the conversation is going to be decidedly Web 1.0. Of course having said that, that’s why it’s also an enviable position that I have. I get to focus that conversation, it’s my job to make people excited about that. I have the good fortune to make a living by getting people turned on to possibilities they weren’t aware of before; I don’t know too many people who can say that.