Category

Strategy

Story change and communication

By | Communication theory, content, Story, Strategy, Uncategorized

From zero to hero. The classic log line for a Hollywood storyline. Why? because there’s lots of change implicit in zeros becoming heros. A perfect example of this would be the log-line for Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Where the filthy rich meet the dirty poor. You can almost see that there will be change for both the two main characters. Without change there can be no story and without story there’s no communication. These three things go together and if you’re going to understand any one of them you need to understand them all.

Another way of looking at this is by investigating what happens when there’s no change. And by that we also mean no change in expectation.
If you were to try to build a story around visting a vending machine: You go to the a vending machine in some big building. You select, say a Kit Kat, put your money in, and a Kit Kat duly drops onto the tray. Well, there’s no possible story that can come out of that because in no way has any expectation been thwarted or extended. However, if a Kit Kat didn’t drop down, but something much more unexpected did, say a packet of class A drugs, you have the beginnings of a storyline.

Creativity where you least expect it

By | Creativity, Strategy, Thought leadership

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There have been many funky things you can do with the design of a bike stand, and I’ve had to lock my bike to quite a few of them. Some of them are really annoying because they allow a bike to topple over.
But this one I spotted in Islington is a breath of fresh air. And like all neat creative ideas, it starts by asking a question no one else had bothered to ask: What would bike parking look like if it were designed by someone who wasn’t a cyclist or a road engineer?
What if it were designed by a landscape gardener?
The ability create different answers starts with the ability to ask different questions. And follow them through to interesting conclusions.

From imagination to reality

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, content, Creativity, Strategy, Uncategorized

creative-process3 Research is a topic that raises a lot of hostile feelings in creative people. Numerous campaigns have fallen at this point only to do really well in real life. Maureen Lipman in BT’s 1980’s Jewish Mother TVC campaign was a perfect example. But I think testing material is really useful, if only because it’s a great way to find out more about your target audience. Above is the general process and it can be iterative.
Although it’s really useful for creatives to go to the focus groups and watch behind the glass window, it’s not as common for this to happen as you might think. For one thing creatives see it like going to the dentist, an exam they’ll find painful and would rather avoid. Another reason is that an agency can be making more money from the creative when they’re chained to their desks rather than watching housewives in Surbiton.
One insight I remember getting from a focus group on women’s hair products was that this particular 40 something lady wanted to look great at times I’d never really considered. Not for her husband, not for the cocktail party nor the hen do, but when she was wearing jeans and a T shirt and the builder was coming round.
Obvious when you think about it, but only when you’ve heard from your actual audience. strategy5
Just for completeness here’s the bigger process that the creative sits inside. Many organisations short cut this, but this essentially is the ideal.
 

Moving a tone on

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, Strategy, Tone, Uncategorized

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One of charts that really helps when you’re discussing verbal, or indeed any type of brand identity is the one above. Based on Jungian archetypes and developed by Mark and Pearson, it forms a neat representation of different brand flavours.
The question you start with is the usual consultancy one: where are we now? The next question is where would we like to get to?
If an organisation product or service is say in the ruler section, maybe they want to transform and become a mate?
If they are a ruler, what sort of ruler are they? Bossy and aloof in a not good way or alternatively, aspirational in the way British Airways was, when it was at its best?
Or maybe the content is such a mish-mash it doesn’t really have any distinct tone you can speak of. Maybe it’s just a big pic’n mix nothing.
These are the issues that form the basis of an audit, and obviously you need to do this in some form, even if only in a very cursory way.
In the old days it was all about the branding agency auditing, presenting and ultimately delivering a verbal identity, but my view is that doesn’t really wash nowadays.
Most organisations have scores of content marketing and corporate writers and there’s no reason to leave them outside the process.
This means that repositioning a company needs to be done with them in a collaborative training and exploratory way, rather than brought down from on high and ‘rolled out’.
Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘rolling something out’, it just doesn’t make any allowance for the way organisations usually work.
You usually find that it’s one thing for a verbal branding agency to blithely specify a few choice phrases, that amount to general good writing practice, but it’s quite another to work through the daily diet of communications the team actually have to put out.
It’s for this reason that training, facilitation, content and verbal brand repositioning are a great combination. And you can’t really substitute them for a few standard bromides about copywriting.
 
 
Jaguar tone book
Asthma UK
Anglian Water

Are you really getting your client's world?

By | B2B, Communication theory, Communications craft, Strategy, Thought leadership, What's out there now


Chris Voss, an ex FBI negotiator is used to dealing with murderers, rapists and terrorists. Here he shares his biggest insights into communications.
Chris explains that being able to play back, almost verbatim, the exact argument of the other side, is more important than expounding the rationality of your own case.
When you repeat exactly what the other side has just said, and they reply, “That’s right“, you’ve achieved the first and most important part of a negotiation: Demonstrating that you actually get where they’re coming from.
Probably the most striking moment of the interview is when Chris describes how one of his team was called up by a hostage taker they had negotiated with a short while back.
“A bad guy called Sabaya. Head-choppin’ terrorist, rapist, real bad, bad guy. Sabaya calls us up two weeks after the negotiation and says: ‘ Did you get a promotion?'”
“‘You should have. I don’t know what you said to me on the phone but I was going to kill Jeffrey. You kept me from doin’ it. They should promote you.’ Then hangs up.”
And so it is with customers, stakeholders and prospects. Getting their worlds as they see it, not as you do, or your CEO does, is the first step to doing business with them. Most of the time we’re not talking to head-chopping murderers and rapists, just people who don’t share your corporate view on how effective your services are.
But like head-chopping murderers and rapists they have an alternative narrative on the way things are.
And the needle only starts moving when you’ve proved you’ve heard what they’re trying to say.

Can animals be creative?

By | Creativity, Strategy, Uncategorized


We might not think of animals as clever enough to be creative, but this footage suggests otherwise. A group of Orca wales line up and swim in, in formation so that they create a bough wave that is big enough to flip the ice. Their reward is fresh seal.
More surprising still is the fact that sometimes the seals aren’t eaten. They are allowed to climb back on the ice and the Orcas have another go. In other words, they seem to be doing it just for the practice, or the sport.
We think of the British as the great creators of new sports. Rugby, cricket, badminton, Eaton fives, tennis, and football. Perhaps the animal kingdom has actually out performed us in creating new sports.
There are other examples of creativity in the animal kingdom too. Monkeys that send in smaller monkeys from other species to pick nuts out of small crevices. They then ‘mug’ the smaller monkey and get the nuts.
If you gave a creative team the above problems to solve, how long would it take them to come up with an answer?

Creativity and symmetry

Mondeo man gets intellectual.

By | Communications craft, content, Strategy, Tone, Uncategorized | No Comments

a href=”http://unlearn.ford.co.uk” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 16.12.18One advertising cliche that sends a shudder down my spine every time it’s dragged up goes: Think you know X? Then think again. As if it’s the consumer’s job to think about an advertiser’s brand positioning twenty four seven, and pay strict attention to all efforts at said brand’s realignment. If there’s a voice over to deliver these words it’s usually a slightly shrill bossy voice that makes you want to hit the voice over.
And so when the Unlearn campaign showed up, my heart sank and I thought it was a high tech version of the same. Think you know Ford Mondeo Man? Think again.
But this campaign has done way better than that. There’s very little old school car in it. Instead there’s a good exploration of disruptive thinking, which is actually quite intellectual.
Unlearn Mobility and Unlearn Waste wouldn’t be out of place in a McKinsey case history – editorial, or a Greenpeace site respectively.
The philosophy seems to make sense and bridges three elements neatly: The lifestyle approach of the ‘ordinary people’ it interviews, the car designer’s approach & build, and your approach to Mondeo man. Nothing is overplayed. It all works.

It proves that there’s no product under the sun that can’t find a worthy cause to support if you think hard enough. But if you’ve done the Copycourse, you already know that.

Customer Journey

By | Strategy

How does a customer come to be a customer? That is obviously the key question for a marketing person, because marketing is about making the journey to the cash register as smooth and as solid as possible, and supporting it with good content.
But in a world of abundant google analytics it’s easy to think that just because something is easy to measure precisely, there’s no need to measure, or even think about measuring anything else. That I believe is a big mistake. In real life people weave in and out of the digital world in a manner of their choosing, not necessarily according to your official customer funnel diagram. In fact the customer funnel is an illusion. A better model might be a pin ball machine or a tornado spout. (It’s even been described recently as a pretzel).
customer-journey-digital
Someone clicks through the site and then drops off your analytics trail. But how do you know they didn’t then pick up the phone and speak to one of your agents before placing an order? You don’t.
They read your content and go to a competitor site. A day later they tell their client, with a different IP address about both. Their client then invites you to tender. How do you track that journey? It’s tricky.
But you can ask questions. Simple questions from your sales agents taking inbound calls, like “How did you get our number?” or “Have you found anything interesting on our website?” It’s not easy but I think it’s time we tried harder to build a fuller richer picture, one that bridges the digital and the real world. We need to remember that analytics are a great tool, but they’re only half the story.
Until we have this, we’ll have all the precise answers, they just won’t be for the questions that really help us.

Good enough to seek out

By | Strategy

If anyone doubts the value of good content, you only have to start looking at the modern customer journey and how it operates to see the importance.
People no longer expect to meet, greet and chat to you to make up their minds.
They effectively start their buying decision process in cyberspace, clicking around and forming an opinion about your brand. 70% of the decision is made before they meet your first actual agent.
This has huge implications for content.
The obvious one being that if you do it well, you can bring someone into an appreciation of your brand and offering in a more automated way and with fewer sales agents.

But there’s a flip side, too: you can’t really afford to do it badly. If you do, what starts as a customer journey set for a sale with you, could spin of into a sale with someone else.

And where average or adequate content that ticked a few boxes would suffice a few years ago, now that content has to be good enough that people seek it out.
Or that Google seeks it out.
Effectively what Google and the modern consumer is asking every company to become is its own broadcasting channel and or newspaper.
And that doesn’t always come easily to many corporations.
It requires mining into the organization to find the genuinely interesting things to say, and sharing knowledge that helps the consumer make up their own minds.
It requires generating fresh material with fresh insights and points of view.
And it requires treating your customers as equals.
And it involves sharing knowledge and information with the outside world, information that sometimes seems hard enough to share internally. But then that is what the sharing economy is really about.