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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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Marketing quote of the day, take 2 November 20, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing.
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Seth Godin

Image via Wikipedia

When you fall in love with the system, you lose the ability to grow – Seth Godin

He says this in his new book Tribes. A little more conventional than Bob, though perhaps a bit more obvious.

So…are we there yet?

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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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Viral; one connection at a time November 9, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing, social media, web 2.0, work/life.
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Earlier this year in one of my regular guises as copywriter-to-the-stars, I wrote an EDM piece for a competition that began “Oh hai.” It was a pure-play in my mind at the folk who would know instantly what I was talking about and at none of the people who wouldn’t. In hindsight it perhaps wasn’t the brightest move to make, but I was feeling something in my gut at the time that Seth articulated really well recently – in order for people to feel like they belong, some people have to feel like they don’t belong; to have insiders you have to have outsiders. I wanted the people who got it to understand a fundamental truth about the brand I was writing for. They did, but I also learnt very quickly that the audience I had in mind was smaller than I thought it was – at least for that particular brand.

We live and learn.

Anyway, for those that don’t know, “Oh hai” has its roots in LOlcats, made most famous over the past 18 months by the emergence of I Can Haz Cheezburger. Their CEO, Ben Huh gave a talk this year at the Web 2.0 conference (the same conference featuring the inimitable Gary Vee) about the success they have achieved – almost 100 milion page views a month! His take on things is really simple and a great lesson lies herein for marketers, Ben is focused on two things:

  1. Facilitating 1-to-1 connections
  2. Making people happy for five minutes a day

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted with vodpod

Take some time to watch it this morning, it’ll make you smile. Oh, found via Dino who is organising this week’s BeerSphere in Toronto.

Happy Monday everybody.

Games that never amount to more than they’re worth July 23, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in strategy.
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No use crying over...never mind.

Having to play catch-up on the myriad of feeds I subscribe to is occasionally a little over-whelming, as I’m sure it is for most folk. I’m increasingly spending more time on weekends catching up though rather than reading the paper, a strategy I think I’ll alter somewhat and just seek out the insight, after all, news is news, right? Unless of course it is “news“.

Reading through this piece from Seth on low-hanging fruit reminded me of a client I was with just recently. I obviously can’t talk about the particulars of their business, so we’re going to go with an analogy.

  • Mary makes a dollar on every scoop of ice-cream
  • She also makes fifty cents on every cone she sells it in.
  • Lastly, she also sells hot dogs, where she makes three dollars on each one

The ice cream and the hot dogs (note: not hot dogs) cost the same for Mary to make, so there is no important difference there. Mary’s customers are quite interesting. They live in a world where the sun is always shining, and it never gets cold, so people always want ice cream. They love their hot dogs too, but they represent just 5% of her business. Understand, Mary’s hot dogs are great, as good as any you’ll find in her neighbourhood.

What people do though is go to Joe’s for a hot dog, and they come to Mary’s shop for ice-cream afterwards.

The problem is Mary’s shop is called The Ice-Creamery, and down the other end of the street is Joe’s Snack Shop which has a sign out the front, a big picture of a hot dog. People don’t know they can get hot dogs from Mary, they got there for ice-cream.

Mary asked me to help her sell more ice cream. What I’m actually doing is helping her sell more hot dogs, and we’re doing this by simple word of mouth; turns out nobody knew Mary sold hot dogs in the first place.

I say the above to make this point: what is it you (“you” can be you as an individual, a business, whatever you like) are known for? Are there other things you do? Do you do them as well as your competitors do? Do you wish you had that extra piece of business?

Sometimes just telling them can make all the difference in the world.

Image courtesy of Caro Wallis, with thanks to compfight.

Life after the dip -or- What happens when you lose everything? July 1, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, music, Video Games, work/life.
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Note: This is a continuation of yesterday’s thoughts.

Also note: not The Dip.

Capitol Records buildingIn the music industry’s case, they’ve spent the last decade attempting to bend consumer behaviour to their will. All the time and effort put into better encryption, DRM etc. only for it all to be futile, forcing people into a dead model. Think about that. Ten years of lawsuits, of bad ideas, of attempts to stall the forward march of consumer technology. Each writ issued was an extra nail in the coffin of a decrepit business model established to confuse value and price point and foist it upon the unwitting consumer. As one of my favourite writers likes to say, the epic, epic lulz. As a complete aside, anyone know how many lawyers the RIAA has? I’m just curious…

In the games industry’s case, budgets and teams are swelling, but this is not where industry growth is coming from. The really booming sectors are taking things back to small teams and games that take hours not days to play. Respecting people’s time and attention spans, you can spend five minutes doing something else entirely and then get back to what you are doing. It is a business model that is fluid, moving with the trends of its audience who are not the pimply teenagers with plenty of time on their hands anymore, they are developers themselves, they are in advertising, they’re lawyers and doctors and parents whose free time has not grown with their disposable income.

Exposing what people want to engage with and burying the stuff they’re not interested in is key, and it is only an issue if your business model rests on the viability of the things people don’t like. Digital Rights Management for starters if a zero-sum strategy where nobody wins. I’m a big believer artists should be compensated for the work they do (indeed one day I hope to do nothing but), but in the interim we need new models that are malleable. In the words of Seth Godin:

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

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

If your goal is delivering value, then everything will be fine. If your goal is to keep the game unchanged, then we have a problem on our hands.

Image courtesy of maubrowncow, with thanks to compfight.

How you doing? May 1, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, philosophy, work/life.
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Ubiquitous, and usually flipped off without a moment’s notice, saying “How you doing?” to someone is usually met with a myriad of responses designed to elicit as little conversation on the subject as possible, largely because (I think) nobody really believes you’re interested in the answer.

Yesterday someone asked me how I was as I stood making coffee at work. “I’m really great, thanks!” was my response. The person in question turned to me a little incredulously and said “Really? Why?”.

“Do I need a reason?”

“To be really great? Yeah!”

How odd I thought, I could have sighed and said “Yeah…ok” and it probably would have been met with a knowing oh-we’re-at-work-aren’t-we glance. Being really great gave pause for thought, and reminded me of a bunch of stuff Seth has written on being exceptional. A mood is enough to stop people in their tracks, to capture their interest.

People want to be part of what is good, what is great, and what is exceptional. You attract others towards you through that attitude, and you attract consumers to your clients brands based on the aspirations they have. Instill the offering with something exceptional (and it can be as simply as being “really great”) and the rest will take care of itself.

…that’s probably over-simplifying, but the point stands.

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…

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.


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?