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Up where we belong March 30, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in creativity, digital strategy.

Since the demise of social media (in my head) I’ve been struggling to get excited about something again. I was sitting thinking about opportunities for a client this morning, and I was reminded of the enthusiasm I talked about the potential of browsers with. This stems from a beautiful execution last year by Poke London on behalf of Orange called Balloonacy, which purported to be (and who is going to argue) the first Internet balloon race (I just noticed they won an award for it too, as it should be!).

The (thoroughly sexy) idea here is Balloonacy didn’t quite exist anywhere, rather it played out over the pages of people who took part, and, flying left to right over the screen you would land on new web pages when you went off the right-hand side. It was an app that didn’t require Facebook or an iPhone, it was a campaign that didn’t require a media buy. It was in fact an execution that could only have been done online, and there is so little work out there we can really say that about.

I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to get something in the browser off the ground for this client, let’s be honest there’s a barrier to entry, not to mention compatability issues, but in the same way processing is getting faster, the walls around technology are getting lower, which means more people participate, which means we get where we’re going faster than we did before.

As I said over at Socialized when the web was abuzz with Skittles nonsense, we’re all leveraging each other’s work, and getting there together.

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Intent = stuff white people like March 13, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, intent, philosophy.
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“People have a really good  ability to see through you projects on the Internet that are just done to try and make you famous.”

Great quote. This is why I bang on about INTENT!

Watch this Google talk, from Christian Lander, author of brilliant blog Stuff White People Like.

Strategy | Intent | Persistence (and tigers and bears OH MY!) December 8, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy, digital strategy, industry news, intent, philosophy, work/life.
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Digital strategy is a business decision, not a marketing decision. That doesn’t mean your marketing team shouldn’t be in the room, it means everyone else should be there with them.

Julian Cole wrote a piece a few months back saying “Don’t trust an agency with your digital strategy.” It does then beg the question (if I may, for a moment, speak client-side) “Then whom shall I trust in your festering cesspool of sharks, narcissists and hopeless egomaniacs?

Good question.

A single unit needs to own a company’s strategy, and they need to be able to talk about each channel with authority. That sounds like a no-brainer I know, so I’m going to put this out there and see how it feels: you won’t find it anywhere where the last name of an ad giant from yester-year hangs their name on the front door. That isn’t because they don’t have intelligent folk from all disciplines working for them, that is because their business models and internal practices will not permit the structural changes required to achieve genuine innovation and next-generation creativity for their client’s businesses, let alone their own.

If anyone is hearing that for the first time, I promise I’m not the first.

I can’t say I know all of the answers, or even any of them. But not enough people are asking the question. Or questions; you can phrase them in a myriad of ways, let’s maybe start with something like this: why does Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne now have four people in its planning department, none of them digital natives? Tim, who worked there as a member of the planning team up until a week ago, had this to say:

I’ve been arguing for a long time now that as product, advertising, sales and service, all get closer together, advertising agencies really need to become creative marketing consultancies…some drastic restructuring needs to take place.

Drastic restructuring then did take place, though perhaps not along the lines he was thinking.

David Armano has talked about a move away from the silver bullet, much like Tim has. I took a personality test recently that told me I rated close to 0 when it came to perfectionism, but was a polar opposite when it came to creativity and a love of thinking. Call me biased (I won’t argue), but that sounds like something very different to where we’re currently at, and given that test it is no wonder I’m a fan of this new direction. I’m also a fan of offering substance, something advertising doesn’t do very well at all.

I’ve talked a lot about intent, and I think this chart speaks to the heart of the same thing I’m on about. It is also the same thing Seth Godin means when he says the following:

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

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

My friend Michael Hewitt-Gleeson calls it SDNT: Start Do Notice Think.

I call it intent, and when I talk about it, I talk about constanty refining the work we’re doing to ensure the outcome is matching the intent; if it isn’t we change it until it is.

Intent is at the heart of everything we do, and the group that owns your strategy should have it etched onto their brains, directing nothing less than strategy that delivers the intended result tomorrow better than it did today. Starting here I’m advocating a move away from the single-minded proposition to the statement of intent; it is fluid and flexible, and it ensures the goal is forever just over the horizon. It will keep you and your organisation passionate and motivated and restless.

And that is how it should be.

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Strategy for the next revolution November 26, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, digital strategy, strategy, technology, web 2.0.
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At the risk of this becoming a Fred Wilson love-in, I’m catching up on my unread items and he mentioned a conference coming up focused solely on creating add-ons for browsers. I’m a BIG fan of add-ons that make it easier for what I’m trying to do – as I’ve said before this revolution we’re going through is based around making it easier for the majority to express themselves (which is subsequently why there are now businesses around organising information – see what we did?).

What is happening in this space though is people are harnessing the notion of the web as the platform and getting away – slowly but surely), from operating systems as we knew them.

The moves that Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have been making though are ones towards the inevitable (and closer than you think) point where there is no such thing as an offline experience. At that point the browser is the experience, with different plugins and views for different things (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).

Where we’re also headed is the recovery of our personal data away from the social networks and back to a central repository, one we are in control of. I wrote the following for Marketing back in May this year:

(Facebook are) desperately trying to maintain hold on user data, under the daft assumption it was somehow their’s to play with in the first place.

That idea, and the moves MS, Google and Mozilla are making, brings the online experience back to the user, it takes the data back to the source, rather than downstream where it currently resides. Facebook exists as a repository for personal data, wrapped up in a layer of communications software that shares it with your friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Facebook gambled – and rightfully so – on that information being worth something; they’ve made a fundamental mistake though in attempting to build a business around something they do not own or control: your information.

So, in playing the game of would-be gate-keeper, distracting you long enough with werewolf bites and status updates, Facebook are trying to build a profitable business around supplying access to the owners of the information.

…stop me if you’ve heard this one…

Meanwhile, people innovating in the browser space are building out their own platforms – ones that exist at a pre-site level. By doing this, they will tap the water supply at the source and not down-stream, and while yes we will still be the ones handing over the information, they know we need software to facilitate interaction with the web, that isn’t changing any time soon.

Facebook’s strategic advantage could be in opening up its system and allowing people to build Facebook applications that reside in the browser and not on their website. But in order to do that, they have to make some fundamental shifts in strategy and philosophy, and move from a siloed-mentality, the kind that built businesses in the 90’s, to an open one – the kind that builds businesses today. They have the scale, what I doubt they have is the will to become, almost overnight, one of the largest publishers of web applications on the planet and give a massive boost to the fledgling economies of browser plug-ins. In Facebook Connect they half-heartedly attempted to extend the reach of their platform beyond their own domain, and it plays like it is: an attempt to be a little bit open, but not too much.

Meanwhile companies like Zemanta, and like Adaptive Blue with Glue, are building businesses for the next revolution by creating technologies that do not require something as decidedly old-fashioned as a website to exist. Indeed they more than anyone recognise there is limited value in pushing a destination, but endless value in pushing content.

As soon as the hardware conversation goes away, the website-as-destination will quickly follow as we embrace the distributed web. So too, I imagine, the gross over-valuation that came and went with everyone’s favourite social network.

This year’s one anyway.

Props to Alisa Leondard who got me thinking about this, you should go and read Socialised. Wait, she’s American, so it’s SocialiZed. Dig.

Image courtesy of Digger Digger Dogstar, with thanks to compfight, who’ve just had a facelift. Go tell them they look pretty – they’ll put out. Promise!
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Make your problem somebody else’s November 18, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, social media, web 2.0.
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Experiences facilitated by brands but not about brands – David Gillespie (broken record).

Entertainment, content of all shapes and sizes, offline, online, anywhere you like it. The problem could be a lack of conversation, and when you give the community around your offering the tools and platforms to make themselves heard, you take a step towards something much bigger than where you’ve been before. As I said when I called social media out, the exciting thing about where we are in our digital evolution is for the first time in our history it is as easy to create content as it is to produce it.

So what are you doing with this opportunity?

User-generated content was the first ham-fisted attempt to do something creative in this space, but it is only going to get better as organisations get more comfortable with the conversation going on about them. There is no silver bullet when trying to harness the enthusiasm of your tribe and align it with an organisation’s goals, this quote from Henry Jenkins though will steer any effort in the right direction:

The key is to produce something that both pulls people together and gives them something to do…I don’t have to control the conversation to benefit from their interest – Henry Jenkins – MIT

If your problem is nobody knows about you, make that the community’s issue and give them a reason to talk. Rally the tribe and give them purpose, make your anonymity their problem, let them solve it in their way. If you’ve been good to them along the way, they will reward you more than your own efforts ever will.

Image courtesy of paf triz, with thanks to compfight.
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I know what you’re about to say like your hype man October 12, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, conversation, digital strategy, marketing.
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I was going to spend the week talking about story-telling in interactive mediums and the ways brands can leverage it, and I’l get to that, but I’ve woken up with something on my mind that I want to get to first.

Over the weekend when not lying in the park or dining with friends I was working on my latest (overdue) column for Marketing Magazine. It will be out in their December/January issue and I was talking about brands finding their voice online, which I’m quite excited about, I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts when it comes out.

I feel though like that’s the running part, and we’re struggling to get the walking right; we’re doing that because the fundamentals of success in business and marketing are shifting and we’re not keeping pace with it. I harp on about it, but only because I think it is important enough to do so: intent. Intent, intent, intent, intent, intent, intent, intent, intent.

While you’re at your desk this week, in each situation I want you to ask yourself “What’s my intent here?”. We make sales calls under the guise of building relationships, we dump on other agencies under the guise of offering advice. We put energy into things that distract us from our main purpose in the hopes that people won’t really get what we’re on about.

And then we go do it with the brands we’re supposed to be building.

Let’s all agree, week beginning Monday October 13th, 2008 to gut-check what the intent is in the work we do this week. Let’s not discuss “new ways to talk to our customers” when the reality is we need email addresses added to a database. By stripping away the stuff we cloak our actions with, we get to the heart of the matter much faster.

And I promise, the campaigns you run are going to be all the more effective for it.

Image courtesy of The Alieness Gisela Giardino, with thanks to compfight.

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Mo’ money, mo’ problems September 24, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, social media, web 2.0.
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So I got on a bit of a soap box earlier today regarding what I think I’ll come to call Currency 2.0 (where was that when I needed it). Currency 2.0 concerns itself with appreciating what is precious in marketing that isn’t a physical world dollar. Email addresses, phone numbers, these things matter, it is a form of currency that you can build ROI around, and you should.

Julian Cole has been tagged at the end of this, it’s an idea we’ve been kicking around for a while where we’ll post a video and tag someone ese at the end to respond. It’s open to anyone who wants to play, just be sure to create a video response on YouTube and we’ll pick it up.

You and me, and the games people play September 23, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, conversation, creativity, digital strategy, marketing, philosophy, social media, web 2.0, work/life.
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Content. Engaging content. Stories being told. Experiences facilitated by brands but not ABOUT brands. The logical extension of “This program was brought to you by…” in life after the 30-second spot is entertainment created solely for or by a brand. Entertainment that doesn’t ram a message home, but simply offers it up on a plate and says “Hey, yeah we did this. Hope you dig it.” The goal is of course still re-enforcement of whatever your brand’s values are, but there are better ways to do it than to just spit out a tagline.

The below quote from Henry Jenkins sums it up for me. I’m trying to figure out where it came from, it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for quite sometime…ahh here it is. I ❤ Google.

The key is to produce something that both pulls people together and gives them something to do…I don’t have to control the conversation to benefit from their interest

That ties in nicely to something I read over on Slideshare the other day (found by way of my friend Tim’s Insight + Ideas blog) that I liked so much I wrote on a Post-It and stuck it to my screen at work:

Autonomy (the ability to make a choice) plus Competence (a feeling like you have the necessary resources to make that choice) plus Relatedness (a sense you are working together towards a common goal) equals Happiness.

Maybe even a good deal of love for your brand.

First image courtesy of via, with thanks to compfight.

Second image courtesy of my own bad self.

21 Questions – part one September 17, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in conversation, digital strategy, social media, web 2.0.
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Earlier this year I had some trouble with Vodafone. In fairness it started when the great southern ocean danced with my BlackBerry and came off best. Then the troubles came whcih manifested itself in my Open Letter to Vodafone. I posted it one evening and woke up the next morning to find Vodafone had spotted it and responded, wanting to help. The only catch was Vodafone UK were the ones coming to the rescue, Vodafone Australia were none the wiser.

Eventually the issues were sorted and in the aftermath I got the chance to pose some questions to the Vodafone UK team. The were great about it, if perhaps a little heavy on the marketing speak at times (I’ve removed the offending questions). Have a read below and let me know what you think, I’ll also be speaking to Vodafone Australia in the near future, if you have something you’d like to ask them, leave a note in the comments and I’ll follow up with them.

This is the first part of an interview I did with Samantha Bottling & Aileen Thompson who heads up the Group Consumer, Enterprise and Brand Media Relations for Vodafone UK.

A lot of consumers have fairly lukewarm feelings towards phone carriers, it seems to be something that transcends borders fairly easily. The forum you have seems a positive first step, how far do you think companies in this space are truly willing to go in terms of transparency?

Customer service over the last 10 years at Vodafone UK has focussed on giving the customer a choice about how they deal with us as no two customers are the same. Customers also expect that choice, which traditionally has been in the shape of help and advice over the phone, in a retail store, through help centres on a web site or by contacting us by email.

However, web 2.0 has moved the expectations of customers on. More and more customers are using forums to get help from other customers or mobile phone users be it about a particular service or a handset or advice on what decision they should make when choosing a price plan. This has generated a very interesting customer service phenomenon for Vodafone UK.

The early adopters of web 2.0 were in fact those looking for more technical specialist help. Two years ago the dedicated technical services team who take the calls of people who need technical help began to notice a trend online for using forums and decided to monitor the activity. Gradually they began to intervene on the forums helping out customers who were having difficulty getting a mobile to perform a specific function for example – making it clear that they were from Vodafone and a credible source of help. The activity has grown over the last two years as more and more customers grow familiar with the web for help and as more and more forums spring up.

The response to the help the team was providing on forums was extremely positive and has helped to forge a very strong reputation for concise clear help from Vodafone. But not only is there an appetite for this kind of help so the breadth of topics on the forums has also grown – no longer is it just technical handset help that is required. The natural step for the team was to set up a Vodafone hosted forum, which would allow the team to help with very specific technical queries right through to queries about Vodafone services, as well as more general mobile questions.

Another reason for having our own forum is that we can use the content more effectively by linking to and from it – using the forum content cleverly to maximise value to customers. So in the Help Centre if customers need more specific help we can direct them to the forum, and in the forum we can link to existing help content, inter-linking the content and making it more valuable overall than two stand-alone areas.

ROI on social media and blogs is pretty hard to justify in traditional terms. How was that tackled at Vodafone? Is it something that requires a constant effort to justify the existence to the bean counters or have you managed to find a way around it?

We can measure it in relation to how the service is used, frequency and the strength of the ‘customer delight’ it brings. Since launching the forum last autumn, Vodafone has seen a steady growth in registrations and page views. Around 3,000 people visit the site each day and use the forum as a database for help.

The forum runs like any other forum in that customers are helping each other out, sharing experiences, solutions and tips and also recommending services and products. The forum has some guidelines and Terms & Conditions for use and is monitored and moderated 24/7. The forum team is always on hand and very quick to respond because it is managed around the clock. The team intervenes to help when a customer’s query can’t be answered by another customer and if necessary make factual corrections to posts. If the query is sensitive and shouldn’t be discussed in front of other customers – like a billing query – then the forum team arranges to contact the customer another way.

What we have also found is that this is not necessarily replacing calls to the contact centres – though it does replace the calls that are complex. In fact we believe we are helping customers who might not have otherwise contacted us and would have struggled on or just not used a service properly or at all. We are filling a customer service gap.

It is also giving customers more confidence to try new things because it is a safe anonymous place where they can share their experiences. The forum is also a place where people can either quickly find an answer using the forum as a database or can post a question and come back to it later in the day if it’s not urgent and they don’t have the time to make a call to us – the forum is simply a new way for customers to get help but with minimum effort, which is just as customer service should be.

It is also very cost efficient for us. We can answer a question that perhaps 1000 people will view and find useful because it saves them the time having to post a question and wait for an answer.

I was talking to the MD of a digital agency recently, and he said quite candidly that we’re still figuring out what “digital strategy” really means. How much of your approach is to throw it at the wall and see what sticks?

We do have a strategy in place for CRM and for online. It is executed according to what suits the local market. For example in Spain forums and blogs are set up in relation to particular campaigns on music for example and run the length of the campaign. In the Netherlands Vodafone has a combination of forums for campaigns,  as well as monitoring external forums to help out customers and blogging on new editions to the handset range, adding handsets to Flickr, blogging on news service. The Dutch online audience is so great in Holland that this blend of activity it is expected of them.

I’ll post the second part tomorrow, thanks to Aileen and Samantha for their time.

I’m a rocker, baby I’m a rocker September 9, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, digital strategy, marketing, work/life.
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“Marketing must be one of those professions where salaries give you the best bang for buck as an employer.”

He was saying most marketers aren’t all that bright.

I can’t say I disagreed with him at the time.

The above quote was delivered to me yesterday at breakfast from a friend who heads up international business development at a company any Australian who reads this blog would be familiar with. I’d just finished telling him how a client had recently said to me “We don’t know about that technology stuff, we’re just marketers.”

When she said “that technology stuff”, she meant the Internet.

Give me strength.

I said last week marketing isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t. Unfortunately it’s also almost completely devoid of the courage required to alter the markets these people exist in (As an aside, they say no one is so sanctimonious as a reformed smoker, I wonder if the same can be said for anyone who walks away from jobs in marketing and advertising to something a little less transient?).

Of course the flip side of that is agencies who have those ideas clearly need to get better at articulating the more strategic paths forward, and in order to get there we need to prove we’re good for more than just the last campaign. I spoke to someone last night from the company responsible Coke’s new bottle debacle and reiterated my point: someone should have been fired for that nonsense.

Regardless, let’s forget all that marketing stuff today, go read this fantastic post by Umair Haque, What Apple Knows That Facebook Doesn’t. Be warned, it is loaded with “that technology stuff”.


Ok, almost 9am, time to give her a call. Serenity now…serenity now…

Image courtesy of Stephen Poff, with thanks to compfight.