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I feel the earth move under my feet October 28, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, intent, social networks, strategy.
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There’s so much talk about platforms – Facebook-this, Twitter-that, more specific but no better than loose conversations about blogging or podcasts. I overheard someone say “It’s OK, there’s a slide on Twitter in the client deck”, which stopped me in my tracks. These tools are not the kinds of things that make sense when being described; who in their right mind would want to tolerate 140-character updates among a sea of people you barely knew? It in no way describes the vibrancy of using Twitter, nor the opportunities inherent in it.

Your friend and mine Tim Beveridge has a great saying: in order to understand change, you have to be part of it (it probably isn’t his saying, but I’m not sure where he got it from, so it’s his now).

The point is the best way to explain Twitter to somebody is to take 30 seconds to sign them up, another two minutes to follow some people they might be interested in, and then sit back and let them have at it. On the (often false) assumption you have a strategic reason for using Twitter, if your client doesn’t already use it then paying it lip service is not going to get you anywhere. Only by engaging  do people actually understand, or as I just commented over at AVC, being heard is not enough, you must also be understood.

Starting a strategy conversation by talking about a platform is a recipe for disaster. It is like deciding what kind of house you are going to be build based whatever hammer you have handy. It needs to begin with intent. Every. Single. Time.

For those who’ve just joined us here by way of Digital Strangelove, thanks so much for stopping by. We’re going to keep talking about intent for a bit, at least until the rest of the world starts to understand the power of it.

Image courtesy of onkel_wart, with thanks to compfight.

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Everyone wants to be the man at the top (Commented on “Howard Lindzon”) October 26, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, storytelling, strategy.
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The conversation taking place around the web about Digital Strangelove is truly blowing my mind. All I wanted to do was move the conversation forward a little, the fact so many people have taken the time to work through it, comment on it, think about it and share it means the absolute world, and it’s great getting to visit a bunch of new blogs and engage with different audiences I would never have had the chance to find out about.

Below is a response I wrote to one post in particular on Howard Lindzon’s blog to an anonymous comment that had said (and I paraphrase) “The ultimate goal is to give people what they NEED”, to which I responded:

“Name” – appreciate your thoughts. And for saying I was smart, I wish my high school teachers could see! ;]

I would suggest the ultimate goal is not to give people anything, except for an easier way to spread their own message. It is entirely unquantifiable, but I would love to know how many people with no prior experience just had a stab at recording some music because of how easy it was to use Garage Band.

At the end of the day, I don’t think you should aim to give your customer something meaningful, you should create an environment where they can give something meaningful to you. To use the Apple/Microsoft example, MS is launching a campaign for Win7 based around having listened to its users, whereas I believe it is arguable Apple’s platform tries to facilitate being able to listen to each other. A subtle but crucial difference.

Now, off to find a cushy job in a Think Tank!

(Written, for the record, on a PC. With a Mac to my left.)

Originally posted as a comment
by David Gillespie
on Howard Lindzon using DISQUS.

The Think Tank comment was due to a wry observation on the part of the poster than I had taken so many slides to say something they thought was blatantly obvious. Maybe they’re right, though other comments had come in stating how concise it was.

Each to their own.

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Digital Strangelove – or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Internet October 19, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, best of, business strategy, digital strategy, social media, social networks, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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I mentioned last week I had been staying in on weekends and up at night trying to get everything I was thinking about out of my head. The space I feel was created in my head is amazing, leaving room to think about a bunch of other projects I have on the go but have also played second fiddle to this.

I’m not presenting the below presentation as gospel, if I may be so bold as to quote myself, I am not looking for right, just for least wrong, as one of the premises I state in the presentation is that so much of this space will continue to change for a long time to come.

The deck covers a lot of ground, mainly from the point of view of where we are right now in the evolution of the Internet and culture, and where I think we’re going. I welcome feedback of all kinds, from bursts of agreement to arguments against each and every slide.

If I have moved the conversation along in even the slightest way, I have succeeded. As always, thanks for reading, I really appreciate your time.

I need something to believe in October 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, strategy.
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For the last month or so, I have locked myself away on weekends and any week night I had free, which I made most nights, in order to get a dump of informatino out of my head. I feel like last year I had or at the very least made the time to get it all down ona  regular basis via this blog. This year there’s been a bit more going on, and trying to stay on top of it all, “all” being the job that pays me, the thing that I love and this place where I do my thinking, let alone whatever may happen in my personal life has been a bit much to digest.

So sometime in September I got a big stack of Post-It notes, a Sharpie and a glass of wine, and went to town, covering my loungeroom with notes, ideas, thoughts and pieces of things I was thinking. After that I left it for a few days, then came back and organised it into a flow that made sense. Then it was a case of pulling it all into a presentation that said everything I wanted in as few words as possible. I’ve perhaps wound up a little more verbose than I ahd in mind, but I feel like I’ve arrived in a place where I can say “Yes, this right now is the summation of everything I’m thinking and feeling about this space.”

There are still a few edges I need to round out, and some great questions posed by friends whose feedback I’ve sought. I’m looking forward though to being able to think about something else, I feel like while I’ve had this deck coming together I haven’t had space to think about anything else. I’m looking forward to your feedback too – call it perhaps the Gospel According to David, it is once again a testament to my innate desire to follow interesting lines of thought, regardless of whether they’re “right”. I feel lucky to be able to experiment publicly with thoughts, and I love it when the readers of this blog come back at me with an opposing point of view. In a few days when I post it up, I hope you’ll do just that.

Imagine courtesy of jannalauren, with thanks to compfight.

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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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And the world seems to disappear August 18, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, marketing, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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So I was watching Curious Films’ Best Ads on TV vodcast this morning, the latest installment of which has a cracking Johnny Walker ad in it featuring Robert Carlyle. It’s below, enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

posted with vodpod

So as I was watching this I got thinking about the length of this “commercial”. It may get a few runs on TV in its entirety, may get a few more in cinemas, but will most likely find its life, if it is to have one, online. So, that takes us quickly to a place where it isn’t a TV spot, it isn’t anything other than video which will be consumed in various places and fashions.

We’re seeing the destruction of industries built to sell physical things in large quantities. Text, pictures and sound are things that will shortly exist almost exclusively in bits, not atoms. Fred Wilson talks about the destruction of industries that are “end-to-end digital”. We’re seeing in the music industry, in publishing, in television, in marketing, in R&D and we’re going to start seeing it in a bunch of other industries that perhaps aren’t as innately adaptable to being entirely digital, but you can bet that the parts that are will follow swiftly.

Clay Shirky said in a recent TED talk that advances “don’t become socially interesting until they come technologically boring”, and we’re almost there. When everything is delivered via what we used to differentiate as “the Internet”, the medium may infact cease to be the message.

That strikes me as, social or not, very, very interesting.

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I could never take the place of your man May 11, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging, conversation, strategy.
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When I made games, every now and then I’d see a project underway where all the code was written by a single individual. That individual would invariably write it in such a fashion that it was only decipherable by them. This became an issue when the project got sufficiently far along that there wasn’t time to re-write the core code (it became, in other words, “too big to fail”. Har har). The company would then be in an interesting position – they could fire the programmer and lose the work, they could assign someone else to work along side the programmer who would no doubt have the most miserable job in the whole building deciphering and documenting the spaghetti or they could…? I don’t know.

I was thinking about this as I reviewed the top 100 brands on Twitter. Upon investigation there should be a massive asterisk which leads you to “In April. Over a few days.” – but this is not the point. The list itself is a collection of the usual suspects, and where possible their Twitter name is included and linked to.

What I find interesting here is at #21 Ford appears. Not just Ford though – Ford’s social media evangelist, Scott Monty. Nowhere else on this list does an individual appear alongside a company listing, in fact nowhere else does an individual appear at all.

Is Ford or Scott Monty doing well here?

Is Ford or Scott Monty doing well here?

We can assume, at some point, Scott won’t work for Ford. This creates an interesting dillemma wherein an individual not tied to the company potentially takes the good will built up with them when they leave. We’ve seen this previously with community managers, but it has for the most part remained within the confines of tech companies. Less risky strategies have been seen from the likes of Southwest Airlines where they encourage their employees to blog and engage in social media, but do a good job of tying it under a single site.

Personally, I’m a big fan of putting a human face on this sort of initiative, in fact I don’t think it works without it. It will be interesting to see however how it plays out once Scott no longer calls Ford home.

I really believe you can’t pay someone to engage, you can only reward them for it. In this case, the reward is a job.

But this is why you can’t just pull in the new recruit from the marketing team to take up the mantle. If they don’t already engage, they’re not going to do it because of a paycheque, not in a way that resonates.

Because that can’t be bought.

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Being DESIGNful… February 24, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in creativity, strategy.

Working on it anyway.

Earlier this week I finished Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin which, while I would have appreciated more practical application of his ideas, was great none the less, and a good primer for visual thinking applied to business situations.

No sooner had I put that down, I picked up Marty Neumeier’s new book, The Designful Company. If his name rings a bell, I’ve likely told you before about his previous book Zag, and you may even know of the one before that, The Brand Gap, kindly available over on Slideshare in totality. It’ll take you 10 minutes, go read it, then come back.

Marty uses the book as a platform to expound the virtues of design thinking, something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Something I really believe but perhaps haven’t articulated all that well in the past is that in order to bring new ideas to the table there’s little value in mining the places everyone else is looking; subsequently I’m more likely to read Fred Wilson than Copyranter when thinking about advertising, though both are great. That’s not right or wrong, it’s just my take, those of you reading A Big Life In Advertising keep at it, I imagine we want different things anyway.

I’m only part way through but Marty is hitting on a number of memes that have been floating around recently, certainly touching on the territory recently mined by Seth Godin in Tribes. It isn’t resonating the way Zag did yet, but it’s interesting none the less – I’ll let you know whether I really think it is worth the coin when I’m done. It’s certainly touching on some things I’ve thought previously, particularly being willing to be wrong, but I cna hardly say I like the parts of the book that agree with me now can I?

While I’m here, I stumbled across Design Thinking, a blog written by IDEO‘s CEO Tim Brown, FYI for those interested.

What was that?

Who is IDEO?!??!


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Marketing quote of the day December 18, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, business strategy, strategy.

David Simon, creator of hit TV series The Wire:

There’s an obligation to be entertaining, but if all you are is in entertainment, then shame on you.

He says that in relation to the compelling nature of truth in story-telling. I was saying something similar to Jules as we wandered around Sydney on Tuesday looking for a place to eat, the idea currently rattling around in my head being if our efforts for the brands and companies we work for are only as large as the products they sell, then we’re all doomed to failure. Seth spends his whole book Tribes (as well as the free three-hour audio version) banging on about this very idea – succcessful companies form around movements, and engineer their offerings to encompass a sense of belonging when you use them.

One of my basic gut-checks when considering ideas for clients is this: how does the user experience improve when another person joins? And another? And another? If the answer is “It doesn’t”, find better ideas. David Armano has a great piece I’ve pointed to before which arranges the idea very nicely…

Simply put, there’s an obligation to be useful, but if that’s all you are, then shame on you.

Now…off to the beach to read some GQ

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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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