I’m wearing new shoes today. They’re made by Atheist Berlin. They feel like hot chocolate for the feet.
Now, I’ve been following the Atheist story for a while, because I know David, Chief Atheist (is that a thing?) from when we did the IPA Excellence Diploma together some years ago (dates redacted to protect the aged). Indeed, it’s interesting to reflect on the number people from the IPA ExDip who’ve gone on to do their own thing; consultancies, accelerators, etc. The course clearly gives people a bit of motivation to do something differently.
But within that those who’ve made a thing. Making things is different from service industries. Not better or worse, just different. Another example would be Matt’s success with Two Fingers Brewing. I make some card things you might have seen. There are no doubt more examples from diploma alumni too. And there are definitely lots of examples of ex-agency people who start making things instead of selling other peoples’ things. But it’s not just a few agency folk leaving uninspiring surroundings to play around at ‘maker’ (although Murat’s post from 2013 still hits upon most of the reasons why that happens).
There’s a cacophony of forces driving more and more people to start making their own things. Some are positive; access to funding of some sort (grants, investors, crowd-funding), the ability to use the internet to learn new skills and find an audience at the right scale. Some are negative; lack of fulfilling work, high youth unemployment, cost of higher education.
They all add up to interesting times for existing companies. Take beer, for instance. The number of breweries operating in the UK in the last five years has tripled. Yet beer sales in the UK remained in a long-term decline until last year, when they managed a 1.5% annual increase. All in all, it adds up to more suppliers fighting over less sales, and more interesting suppliers stealing share from less interesting ones.
This summer has felt like what started as an expression thing for the creatively minded has started to become a business thing for a lot of people. The conversations I’ve been having and become aware of are less about how brands can support makers do their own thing, and more about ‘what happens when they start to make our thing?’
Our culture has a new pair of shoes, and it’s starting to test just how far it can walk in them.
Bobbing and weaving through the tweets an hour ago, I picked up on Jeremy‘s post on the issue of website performance vs serving ads/tracking people…
…in fact, I really picked up on it because of Mark‘s reply:
Which is interesting, because there’s something been pinging around my head recently about why the advertising industry decided on this as their future. And why did we as people decide that advertisers knowing all this about us was OK…?
Here’s my hunch; Tom Cruise is to Adverts as William Shatner is to Phones.
Which means what?
Well, there’s the famous, perhaps apocryphal story that the mobile phone, specifically the flip phone, were inspired by the Star Trek communicator. The engineers growing up and watching telly around this time had a ready-made prototype of ‘the future’ in front of them… and so, it came to pass. Let’s make that.
Another example – last week at IED, the brilliant Andres Colmenares was talking about the Hendo Hoverboard that’s received kickstarter funding. It’s basically the Marty McFly hoverboard. Let’s make that.
And the advertising example?
Minority Report, of course. Specifically the scene in which Tom Cruise goes hurtling through a crown of people in a shopping mall, and all the adverts start addressing him individually…
You’ll know the scene, because no doubt everyone’s been shown it often enough in presentations about ‘personalised marketing’. It became so trite that people stop using it. It may even be cool and retro to start using it again (I’m not really sure, as I don’t do enough advertisingy type things anymore to know).
Basically, it became a cultural shorthand; ‘This is a future for advertising’ became ‘this is the future for advertising’.
When enough people can use it as a common reference point, they can sit in meetings and decided what advertising should be in the future by using this example. When people were talking about how the ads that would support their platform, they’d major on just how ‘identifiable’ people were, and so the ads could be personalised too.
“You know, like in Minority Report”.
And maybe that’s why we’re here.
Thanks, Tom Cruise. Thanks a bunch.Read More
I did a wee talk on Monday evening, at the IPA 44 Club, which inevitably resolved itself in a Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy metaphor. It was part of Nick Kendall’s evening on the ideas behind the What Is A 21st Century Brand? book – Neil Godber from JWT spoke on Stephen King’s original, pioneering thinking on what a brand was in the 20th century.
In the book, Nick’s collected together what he considers the most pertinent theses from the ten years of the IPA Excellence Diploma. You can download mine as the sample chapter from here.
I thought I’d quickly write out what I think I was getting at.
It’s notionally a talk about brands, but in hindsight is as much about organisational change as anything. Which makes sense, I guess, given some of what Smithery does.
My thesis, back in 2008 or so, was called The Communis Manifesto. To pull an explanatory paragraph from it, it was about this…
“I believe the future of brand communications lies in finding a way to become part of communities, and communicate with them in a way that is shared, participatory and reciprocal.”
I realise now, though, that I fell into a classic economics trap. I took a micro view of one brand, and forgot to consider the macro perspective; what happens when every brand does this?
Well, as we can see now, it all gets a bit noisy… an endless hum of brands vying for your attention at any given opportunity, all going a little ‘gorilla in a jock-strap’ in order to arrest some eyeballs for the briefest of seconds (go and read Faris’ Paid Attention for more on that).
Thinking about how brands and companies operate in the 21st century, and how some struggle to remain meaningful, it made me think of Golgafrincham.
You know, Golgafrincham, yeah?
Ok, I’ll explain…
In the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent find themselves on a massive spaceship, with lots of frozen bodies in the hold. It’s the Golgafrincham B Ark. The captain explains that they’d been told that the planet of Golgafrincham was in terrible, terrible danger, so they all had to leave.
On the A Ark would be all the leaders, scientists, pioneers… the high achievers.
On the C Ark would be all the people who made things and did things.
And on the B Ark, there would be everyone else. The middle managers. The hairdressers. The telephone sanitisers.
The leaders of Golgafrincham explained that they would send the B Ark first, so that when they settled the new planet, everyone else could be confident of a good haircut and a clean telephone when they got there. So off the B Ark went.
They hadn’t, explained the Captain, heard anything from the other two ships since leaving. Which he began to think was a little strange, having finally told someone else about it…
Some companies are clearly on the A Ark. They lead in their space, well, any space. Pioneers, future provokers, creating the products and services we love to use.
A Ark stuff is easy to point at, and hard to do.
Increasingly [because INTERNET], there are a lot of C Ark companies around. Start-ups, and hobbyists, those born in the internet, who’re happy to show you everything that they do. It’s a new transparency, it makes companies and the people who work there very visible, believable, and trustworthy. It regularly works for much smaller companies, who can make enough people see what they’re doing to be successful on their terms
C Ark stuff is easy to do, and hard to point at.
Which leaves the B Ark companies. The companies that just kind of exist in that middle layer of life. They didn’t used to do the stuff that was hard, because they just had to do things that were good enough. They didn’t used to worry about pointing people to things, because you could switch on advertising and pipe people’s eyeballs towards your products.
It’s hard to be a B Ark company today.
So you’ve got two choices.
You can try and get on the A Ark, and start pushing the boundaries of expectations in your market. Every market has a future. Show people the one you really believe in.
Or you can jump onto the C Ark, and start showing people all the things you make and do. If it’s not good enough to be interesting, then you need to change the what and how of your makings and doings. If you do it well, people will start to point other people towards it.
Both things are hard to do.
But they’re better than being on the B Ark.
I’ve started running a bit more consistently this month. This year’s been a bit busy, and I allowed that to become an excuse to not run. June’s been better though. I don’t run particularly far, or well, or fast. But I enjoy it when I do.
A message popped up on the Nike Running app last week, and the end of one run – I wish I’d screen-grabbed it, but didn’t – along the lines of “your Nike Lunareclipse 3 have done 560km – perhaps time to think of a replacement“.
Some interesting things happen as a result.
Firstly, I start wondering if my right foot, which was a little sore on the run, was caused by defective trainers. I didn’t think this on the run, but suddenly blame the shoes.
Secondly, Helen and I start talking about how they ‘know’ the trainers need replacing. Is it just distance? It asks for terrain type after each run, so is that a factor? And perhaps there’s even something it can track from the running motion through the accelerometer – do runners with worn shoes wobble in a different way?
Whatever it is, suddenly I’m psychologically finished with the old running shoes. Even though the cynic in me knows that Nike have one intention in sending that message, and so the incentive for them is to send it a little earlier than they absolutely have to…
The next thing is to get some new ones.
When I bought the last ones, I did the running machine test at NikeTown in London. It’s just over from the office, so across I pop the next day.
Explaining which shoes I had before, I go back on the machine to test new ones.The type of support in the shoe helps your ankles align better on striking the ground.
The old camera at the rear of the machine has been replaced with an iPad version, I note – be it FuelBands or Running Cameras, Nike has clearly thought better of making its own devices, and just uses someone else’s nowadays.
Walking out with new shoes, I realise that I feel quite trapped.
The runs logged in the Nike App are hard to get out, so I can’t readily migrate my data to a different system. And I don’t know how to translate the type of running shoe support into other trainers – I don’t have the Rosetta Stone that would say that ‘this type of shoe in Nike means this in another brand’.
The system is created to make this sort of ‘loyalty’ more likely, of course. But it’s not loyalty if I just haven’t got the energy to fight my way out.
So on I run on the Nike treadmill.
I was out and about at Borough Market last week, spending an hour people-watching after one meeting and before another. Amongst the things I saw was a lot of photographers hanging around outside Monmouth Coffee. All with one thing in common…
They all had Leicas. They were there on a meetup with The Leica Meet, a series of regular meetups that’s nothing officially to do with the brand, but run by the Leica owners themselves. The sort of thing that the internet has made a lot easier to think about doing over the last couple of decades. “Come and meet other people like you”.
It made me think of the illustrations I’ve done recently for Mark Earls’ new book, Copy Copy Copy, as amongst other things, he talked about how the camera market works in terms of visibility:
Luckily for me, I got to work on the book and read it early – it’s a phenomenally useful toolbox of a book, and I’m honoured to have played a wee part. Go and get it here, folks.
Everyone else is, because that’s HOW COPYING WORKS….
…ha, yes, sorry, couldn’t resist.
Many > One.
Yep, of course it is. And no, I’m not just trolling maths geeks.
Last week I delivered an updated version of my new talk for this year on the Google Squared talent accelerator programme. The train of thought is still called “Fanfare For The Common Brand”, but the lead principle is now that Many > One.Read More
There are many better places to read about the new Amazon Dash button, launched yesterday. One such place is Matt Webb’s excellent (and as he calls them) ‘raw’ thoughts on what it means from an IoT perspective. And he should know.
One sentence in Matt’s piece made me sit up though… “You’re a loyal Tide customer, but you’ve run out“…
Loyalty does seem to be the presumption in the launch campaign for Dash; that people have a firm favourite (not even just a fixed repertoire) amongst the countless toilet rolls, washing up liquids, soaps and cereals they stock their homes with.
Loyalty. A big word, with an ironically fickle fan base.
What I perceive to be the general wind direction in the realms of best brand practice is that ‘loyalty’ might just be a largely fictitious beast, especially in the realms of FMCG.
A quick blast through the main points of Byron Sharp’s excellent How Brands Grow will give you an idea of why…
And there’s a longer list of other brilliant viewpoints on it (read Martin Weigel on it, perhaps, over here).Yet the launch of Amazon Dash seems predicated on the existence of brand loyalty.So here’s an open question:How many brands are you certain enough about to stick a button to your wall for? Think about the last shopping basket you filled, or Ocado order you received. What in there is a permanent fixture? What will you always buy to the exclusion of anything else?What brand would you nail to a wall with the same conviction that you’d put up a picture in your house?Dash makes a lot of sense from Amazon’s point of view, clearly. Whooo, go supply-chain monopoly!And it may even make sense to FMCG marketers who believe they have a hard-core of “brand loyalists” out there, somewhere, who’ll choose their Dash button over a rivals.(There’s actually a whole other conversation to have on whether you need an Ariel button by the washing machine, or a P&G button, but that’s for another day).But with what the evidence and understanding of how it seems now that brands have worked, that doesn’t seem like the Amazon Dash idea of ‘loyalty’ is all they make it out to be.It does give rise to an interesting set of questions though.If we suppose for a minute that brand loyalty isn’t a thing, could we also argue that it’s because the infrastructure hasn’t existed to make it a thing.After all, building loyalty in supermarket aisles by running TV ads and putting up posters is doomed to failure becuase of all the stoopid consumers who always forget what craft and joy you put into your ad, right?Loyalty would probably be a brilliant strategy if everyone used shopping algorithms.However, is it possible that things like Amazon Dash will create a world where brand loyalty actually means something, because the infrastructure connecting people to needs is so different?Or, alternatively, are we going to see a short-term future in which people stick three Dash buttons on the washing machine, and use the website to check prices on the cheapest before pressing?Hmmmmm…Oh, and those brand stickers – they’re crying out to be screens in two years time. Which could mean adverts, and competition for space, and doom for FMCG brands.Reckon, reckon, reckon… and relax.Read More
I finished and presented the “Fanfare for the Common Brand” presentation yesterday, about 150 yards out from the train station. I presented it 45 minutes later. Afterwards, Fraser and I talked about it, what needed to build on, what more should be in there. More examples, suggested Fraser, wisely.
Brad similarly challenged me this morning… “the one question I have — and I suspect that you talk about it in the narration — is how companies can do what you want them to do with their products, brands and their customers at scale?”. It echoed something the audience yesterday at Squared asked to… “but, how…?”. And Peter on Twitter asked similar.
So, with that in mind, and without taking an age, here’s a brain dump on how you can start being a Common Brand, using the three working principles from the end of the presentation:
– Invite three customers in once a week for lunch with your team
– Find the earliest customer you can, talk to them about why they believed in you then
– Find three simple questions about your thing – ask them to everyone
– Hang out where customers hang out, just watch people using your thing
– Make everyone in the company meet a customer once a month. Minimum.
– Solve tricky customer questions face to face. Go and see them. Understand what went wrong.
– Write the story of your thing, as reflection. Share with the team. Then make it public.
– Show things early. Make pictures of your process public.
– If you can’t do that in your publics comms stream, make up another one.
– Be interested in other people working in similar space. Say hello. Be nice.
– Show your working. Some people are interested in how you got there.
– Show your mistakes. Some people are interested in how you got there too.
Make It Together
– Watch people using your thing. Hands tell more stories than mouths.
– Don’t show them ‘how’. They didn’t use it wrong, you made it wrong.
– Bring people together to play with your things. Ask them to improve them. Record it publicly.
– Give credit where credit’s due. More people will come and play.
– Let people steer your choices, not your existing processes.
– Prototype the thing that people say “well, you probably wouldn’t do that…” about.
*Bear in mind, this is a first version of a list written in 20 minutes. I don’t think it’s particularly new or ground-breaking stuff in terms of suggestions, but if you’re asking the question you may not be doing any of it.
**Some people asked yesterday “have you got any examples of people doing it well?“. Which sometimes annoys me as a question, because it means organisations are making people too afraid to try anything without a precedent. Well, there are loads of easy, quick stuff on the list above that you can try really quickly. Pick one, and do it. Then the example of someone doing this stuff is you.
***Here’s the full presentation again, if you want a flick through and the chance to discover the answer to what the true weight of the internet is… (it’s not what you expect…)Read More
I’m fresh out of presenting the below for the first time at the latest intake of Squared. For the last two years, I’ve presented various iterations of ‘Are Brands Fracking The Social Web?’, but over the last month or so, I realised that there’s something in the water around the relationship between the brand idea, the execution of it in practice, and what’s happening to the social web.
So, here we are. A first version of a new thing…Read More