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The Space Between March 31, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing, music, philosophy, work/life.
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Last week Scott and I were engaged in a conversation (likely entertaining to only ourselves) about how the right song at the right time can take a moment and make it seem bigger than it actually is. Sure you can achieve that at a decent gig by any half-wit band, but we were talking more so about times when you’re on your one, or at most one other. It’s how a song becomes “our song” as opposed to just “the song that was playing when…”.

I love and think about music for different reasons to a lot of people, but respond to it in entirely the same way. I can remember hearing The Blue Nile’s She Saw The World (from the album “High” – review | buy), streaming from Pandora (before it was restricted outside the US) in my first couple days at DDB, late one afternoon when the sun comes bursting through the venetian blinds that obscure the city in their Melbourne office, how perfect that was. I remember hearing Take ‘Em As They Come on my birthday last year, an obscure Springsteen song from disc 2 of Tracks. Those moments were much larger than the inherent mundaneness of sitting in an office or thinking about a girl as I walked to meet my friends for dinner.

Now those moments are only made possible by the products that serviced me at the time; Pandora, a music streaming service, and my iPod. When I think about those times, I’m aware of how those moments were facilitated, and they inherently instill good feelings about both companies as well as their offering. The afore-mentioned Scott touches on this in his latest post “The future of advertising and marketing, or why having a boring product means you’re officially screwed”. Music is an easy one, but the lesson inherent here is genuine value was created. The products enriched my life.

A product that creates value gets talked about on its own. If it’s being talked about then it reduces the need for marketing spend. Or rather markets itself. I think was Seth Godin who recently said “Instead of spending $50 million on marketing, spend $50 million on a product that is actually worth talking about.” Brands and products become more than the sum of their parts when they get it right, but first you have to care more about getting it right than that quarter’s results.

Once you’ve made that shift, that’s when things get interesting…

Bring The Love Back March 31, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, web 2.0.
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Why Microsoft gets this when countless others don’t I’m not too sure, but they nail it in one.

Spam sam spam spam… March 26, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in web 2.0, work/life.
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Just saw Andrew Cafourek Twitter the following: Best SPAM ever: “There is this huge amount of ($2.800.000) dollars which my late father deposited with a bank before being assassinated…”

I love the idea of one of these actually being legit. A Nigerian Princess sitting there thinking “WTF? I’m a fucking Princess!! Doesn’t ANYONE want to marry a princess!?!?”

Terribly amusing. If only for me.

Seth on Persistance March 18, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing, philosophy.
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So simple, so right:

Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying.

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.


Call it unreasonable, call it progress March 18, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news, work/life.
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Someone once told me I’d never had an opinion I wasn’t inclined to share, and I can’t say I argued much with them at the time. Given to spouting off at the drop of a hat, it’s only made possible by the fact I’m quite happy to be proven wrong. One of the more famous quotes from George Bernard Shaw is the following: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” It’s one I quite enjoy, and while I can’t say I strive to emulate it, it seems to pop up more often than not.

Something has to be said for it though, as I’m lucky enough to have been invited by Marketing Magazine to contribute a regular blog to their site and a column in each digital issue they publish (that comes out quarterly). Having just submitted my first column, I was surprised how nervous I was sending it off, knowing it would be available solely in print, and solely to people who had paid for the privilege.

Do I really think my opinion is worth paying for? Frankly, I do. But in this instance it wasn’t my idea. The editors of Marketing were the ones who decided it was worth paying for, all I can do is live up to their expectations, and hopefully, on occasion, exceed them. I look forward to discussions on their site and on this blog, with a few more insights from readers and hopefully a number of ruffled feathers!

In the interim, head over to Marketing’s current blog and get involved. It’s written by Scott Drummond who is equal parts funny and insightful. And for the record, I was saying that before they came calling.

What happens when the heart just stops? March 13, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, philosophy, work/life.
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On my way to the office this morning I stopped by my favourite coffee emporium in all of Melbourne, a shop at the edge of the Prahran Market called Passionut. I stepped inside to see the place flooded with chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, the layout of the store in disarray. “Where are Tim and Carol?” I asked the eager guy behind the counter. “Oh, they’ve moved on,” he said, and that was that.

Tim and his wife Carol stocked a range of fantastic coffee, wonderful fresh nuts and dried fruit, and some great chocolate. Chocolate and coffee are two of my real passions in life, I can take either in until the cows come home with little loss in desire to consume more. More than that, buying it from Tim and Carol, a couple who I’ve shared lots of music and more laughs with became an experience in itself. I’d share with them my hopes for meetings I was having to get the music I make into a wider sphere, we’d swap mix-tapes of Eric Bibb and B.B. King among others, time in their shop was refuge. To quote Hugh Mcleod, coffee was the social object but the conversation around it was much more important, and that was never so apparent until today when I wandered in to find they weren’t there anymore.

I’m sure the new owner is a lovely guy and I hope he does well. But I didn’t go back to the shop because of the coffee, I went back because of the relationship I had with the Tim and Carol. I can’t count the number of places I can get coffee from Costa Rica in Melbourne, so I’m off to one of those. I’ve no interest in buying from the new guy, they were all out of the one I like anyway. That experience with one of my favourite things in the world gets tucked away now, forever and ever, amen.

When a brand becomes an experience and takes on a life of its own, neither the creator nor the consumer is in control anymore. That’s a really exciting space to be in, the rules are entirely unwritten. But it also means there’s no way that experience can be transferred, because it is so personal. It’s the final destination for the brand that has achieved everything else, the only place left to go is complete reinvention. That’s where Tim and Carol have gone to, and I guess I’m on my way as well. Good luck guys.

Bluefreeway shares rise, questions remain March 6, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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Two days after announcing it had entered due dilligence with a third party looking to acquire it, Bluefreeway’s shares have again closed up, rounding out the day at 36 cents having opened on 25. This despite media group Mitchell Communications announcing yesterday it had been the one looking at the troubled group of companies but pulled out, releasing the following statement:

“…given the recent announcements of BlueFreeway, Mitchell Communication has informed BlueFreeway this afternoon that it has decided not to proceed with further discussions at this time.”

Bluefreeway will no doubt look for other avenues to explore, though its hard to foresee the kind of company willing to take on a ship of that size. When trouble first appeared it seemed at first moves would be made to spin-off the profitable parts of the business and shut down the rest. This still seems like the best play, and the only one the market is going to swallow in any sort of sustainable fashion.

Bluefreeway; Indigo Hindsight March 3, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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Does anyone have any thoughts on the capital that funded this apparently batshit insane run through the Australian market? Somewhere in here there is an incredible story to be told. I’m willing to bet it has a bit to do with each of these things.

Are You a Partner or a Provider? March 3, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in work/life.
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Those who know me will tell you I love a feisty debate. I’m sure a few ex-girlfriends would even tell you I argue for the sake of arguing, but if I’m guilty of playing Devil’s advocate a bit too much, it stems wholly from a love of learning and a constant desire to prove myself and my own ideas wrong. I don’t mind being wrong at all, as I’ve said before, I’m quite happy not to be right; I’m simply working towards being least wrong.

But I digress. Often. We got into an argument discussion on Friday over what it meant to be a provider/supplier as opposed to truly being a partner. Long time readers know I show Simon Chen over at Eight Black a lot of link love, and I do that for a couple reasons. The first is he is great at what he does, and having worked with so many snake-oil merchants over the years, it is a pleasure to send every pair of eyeballs I can his way. So if you need some advice on SEO, SEM or email marketing, go say hi and tell him David Gillespie sent you. Actually don’t, he’ll probably ask for danger money.

The second reason I send him a lot of love is he understands what it means to be a partner. Simon doesn’t just show up with invoices, he shows up with heart, passion, and a genuine desire to add value to your business. Partners are proactive, they come to you with ideas and insights for your business, they send you books that help you be more self-sufficient, they connect you with people who will give you good advice, at best for free, and at worst for a nice bottle of white over lunch. They brainstorm when you’re not in the room, they do mock-ups of ideas for your website and don’t charge for them; they recognise billable hours are worthless and relationships are priceless.

Do you have partners or just providers for your business? If you’re in the vendor space, when was the last time you went out of your way for a client? Not the bluechip one that paid for your kid’s schooling, I’m talking the guys who are passionate and boot-strapping to get by. The adage that you only know who your friends are when you’re down is just as true in business. Take a couple guys from that company to lunch this week and simply show an interest in what they do. Then sit back and smile when something you were genuinely a part of manages to take flight.

If you’ve picked your projects right, you will be along for the ride the entire way.

Eyes on the prize: what is your company’s core offering? March 3, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, web 2.0.
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I’m a big believer in a business being free to focus on its core product(s). If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do! Far too many times I’ve seen companies get distracted by an interesting piece of technology or an idea outside their scope or ability to act on. When that happens, your core product suffers, and your competitors who may have been running a distant second seem to close the gap over night.

It isn’t simply a case of distraction though, outsourcing can also land your ability to succeed and innovate in the hands of people who don’t share your priorities, goals, or values. What that means is a devaluing of your offering in the eyes of the people you’re hoping to sell to. An inconsistent experience you can’t directly impact means your brand comes to be associated with, at best, a level of impotence in affecting positive change for its own offering, and at worst, a frustrating end-user experience. On top of the impotence. With a good measure of GAF* thrown in.

The same idea applies to brand extension. Let’s compare Google and eBay, two titans from Web 1.0. One seemingly goes from strength to strength with an occasional bit of conjecture, and another is mired in a mix of end-user apathy and anger, with top-tier management failing to set a cohesive direction. Google’s acquisitions may seem puzzling at times from the outside, however each purchase (with the occasional exception) can fairly readily be tied back into search, and eventually monetised.

Contrast this with eBay’s acquisition of promising-but-troubled VOIP provider Skype back in 2005. 2 1/2 years on this seems like a move geared around nabbing promising tech before someone else does, and not around how such a service better positions eBay to grow. Now both services are languishing with indifference and open hostility, and the purchase is little more than a land-grab in hindsight.

The trouble with a land-grab is eventually the people who actually own the land show up and cause trouble. In this case the digital natives are fighting back, services like Etsy crop up and move in on markets that could have and maybe should have been eBay’s. All due to the company losing focus, and the same can be said for Yahoo!, parts of Microsoft, and a myriad of players in the offline space too.

Times like this some old-school business lessons can come in handy. Echoed in Fred Wilson’s post about the New York Times, Jack Welch’s mantra to his VPs was be number one or two in your market, otherwise get out. Seth Godin says in his book The Dip “being the best in the world is seriously underrated”. And as I say up top, “If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do!”

Anyone have examples that fit into the above they’d care to share?