Meet Adam. Adam has a blog. But he's not really a "blogger". Adam likes to say what he thinks—so you won't have to think about what he's really trying to say. Adam has a bio just like everyone else. Sort of.
"Hello, I’m Adam Crowe.
I work as a Designer and Researcher in the help people to meet their wants and needs business.
The best career advice anyone has given me is this simple formula:
KNOWLEDGE + EXPERIENCE = SHIT
A bit harsh, maybe. But I find it trully inspiring. As you can probably tell, I don’t particularly respect tradition (knowledge); have little patience for ass-licking reverence (experience); and am unafraid to shout down mediocrity wherever I find it (shit).
Yes, I’m a little angry, and I do so enjoy a good moan. But don’t be offended. It’s just that I draw enormous energy from being negative; it’s just my way.
My goal in life is to not be shit!
Please find my respectable profile on LinkedIn."
It’s tempting as hell to summarize how people relate to brands in either the way a brand tells it’s story or the the way a customer experiences a brand across a variety of touch points. Ultimately the stories and the experiences all add up to how an individual perceives your brand. However at the ground level—at the core, you have two types of people working behind the scenes to create these experiences and tell the stories. Experience People and Storytellers.
I am by no means an expert on this subject matter, but for what it’s worth—here is my perspective based on personal observations in the working world. In 1996 I knew I wanted to be a part of the Web—not just in my personal life, but as a professional. I wanted to make a living and learn as much as I could about the new media as possible. I was currently working as a broadcast designer for Fox News. If you asked me what I did back then, I would have immediately answered that I was a graphic designer. Before that I designed catalogs and freelanced identity design. When I interviewed for my first Web job at the Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com), the editor asked me why I wanted to work on the Web. I told him that I used visual design to tell stories—and that I desired to tell those stories in an interactive fashion.
And looking back, my answer to his question was accurate. I did just that. I worked with journalists and news people while learning HTML and Web design basics to design sites that told “interactive stories”. Instead of creating an information graphic you would merely look at, I created graphics you could click on! (a big deal back then) I also came up with headlines and selected photos for the homepage stories on a daily basis.
Then something interesting happened. Part of my job became to re-design areas of the site that required users to register. Or to work on other sites doing similar kinds of design. At first I hated it. I didn’t feel like I was telling stories at all. That’s because in a way—I wasn’t. I was being tasked to improve the experience of certain areas of the site and I didn’t know much about this kind of thing. But I quickly learned. And I learned to enjoy it. I realized that many of the design principals I was taught in school could be applied in this area. To simplify. To not overwhelm. To help guide users through a process providing visual cues. That's what visual communications was all about,
Fast forward a couple of years. One of my clients at agency.com was Grainger, a large B2B distributor with a fully functional transactional site that could do pretty much anything you could think of in relation to e-commerce. My team and I spent years evolving the site experience. We prototyped, we tested, we personified customers, we built, we re-built, we designed in iterations, and after significant effort—we helped evolve an interactive experience to be both more business and people friendly. But were we telling stories? Not at that level. The site was definitely part of a larger brand story (or experience), but we were helping to make a very specific existing experience better.
But other projects did include more storytelling aspects. When HP decided to sell iPods—we had to both create an experience and tell a story within the parameters of a marketing focused Website. Here I would say that the lines were much more blurred between the experience and the story. We had to tell the story a certain way. There was a position. There was a strategy. And the story was being told in many other mediums such as TV. Unlike Grainger, on that project we had Experience People and Storytellers working together.
And it wasn’t always easy.
That brings me to current times. From my perspective we can talk about great experiences and compelling stories as much as we want—but I think an emerging reality is that the Experience People and Storytellers are going to have to make significant strides in how we relate to each other. In my opinion, an intimate brand relationship is formed through a collection of experiences and reinforced through stories. Think about it in these terms. If you work for an agency and you are focusing on an interactive initiative—how much coordination is there at the brand strategy level? How much between the teams that devise the messaging and the ones that create the experiences?
Here’s a personal example that I’ve referenced before. I’ve had positive experiences with Citibank over many years. From the ATMs to the branches, to their online banking. They have done right by me. And there’s something about their brand personality that just works for me (from the design of the branches to the logo etc.) So when a clever campaign like the “Thank You” one comes up—I’m fine with it because I already have developed an affinity for the brand. It reinforces what I currently feel. So the Experience People have done their job. They’ve provided me with consistently good experiences. And the Storytellers have done their job—they’ve told me memorable stories that reinforce my feelings. Together, both add up to loyalty. But at ground zero are the people creating those communications designing experiences? Are the people designing the ATMs telling stories?
So back to my personal experience as it relates to marketing and creativity. I have a hunch that the brands which do a good job of getting the Experience People to perfectly sync up with the Storytellers are going to be the ones who stand out in the end. To bring this back to earth, I’ll reference another example. Nikewomen.com Unlike my Grainger example, I think the Nikewomen site combines both experience with story—both are dialed up in a big way. The site uses video, attitude and music to relate to their intended audience. But it also SELLS product. You can buy any of the clothing items you see in the video. Now at surface level this all sounds simple. But think about the teams who worked on this. On one hand you have video directors, screen writers, choreographers, art directors etc. responsible for highly produced multimedia that people would be willing to sit back and watch on their PC screen. And on the other, you have information architects, developers, visual designers etc. working together to deliver a fluid commerce experience that actually works and is easy for people to use. And it’s all wrapped up in one “Website”.
Experience People + Storytellers working side by side? You bet.
"it’s one thing to write about, or read about, a successful company
after-the-fact and analyze how it achieved success. It’s another to
build that successful company from scratch. Everyone knows that the
innovator’s dilemma is to find a tipping point in order to cross the
chasm. The question is not “why?” but “how?”.
So I’m minding my own business, and all of a sudden I get an e-mail with this title “Graphic Design for Non-Designers” and I notice that it is from Businessweek. At first I am appalled. Who is Businessweek to think that they can turn someone into a Graphic Designer in two weeks? I’ve spent years toiling in this craft with a formal education to boot. Then it hit me. This isn’t about teaching design as much as it is embracing an inevitable reality. Today, everyone has the ability to be an editor, designer, artist, director or producer. Just plug in i-Life and play if you will.
Businessweek (and HP) understands this and by offering up a free class, they see the opportunity in building loyalty with the emerging creative class as they desire to learn more about these skills. Here’s a description of what the class offers:
"Understand the basic history of the graphic arts to aid in the thought process behind creating a successful design
Use concept development as a tool for a design that will set you apart from others
Incorporate different kinds of images into your designs
Understand typographic design and the impact it can have
Use color effectively
Compose an eye-catching design
Work with a variety of design media from tracing paper to the computer"
Here is my take on this. I think it’s a good move for Businessweek. If you look around the Social Media Network and any other media—it’s filled with example upon example of bad design from people who have figured out how to use modern applications but don't know jack about basic design principals. Zefrank touched upon this with his “ugly myspace contest” (he also provides a nice design history lesson here).
So will Businessweek (and HP) succeed in training the everyday Joe to know beauty from ugly? I have no idea. But I think it’s a sign of things to come. Target says “Design for All”. Maybe this is all just a sign that good design will become mainstream one day. I doubt that two weeks spent with Businessweek will do the trick—but it’s an interesting move nevertheless.
Need a little pick me up for the day? Work in an agency? Well then, of course you need a pick me up (or a stiff glass of scotch). go over to Advergirl and read her entertaining (and truthful) 10 habits of highly annoying agency humans Dilbert's got nothin' on the 'Girl.
Here's a sample:
Can You Hear Me Now?
"I AM SO SMART. MY IDEAS ARE FANTASTIC. I’M TALKING AT THIS VOLUME SO THAT EVERYONE CAN BASK IN MY BRILLIANCE.
The very best moments for The Bullhorn are when he stops listening to himself in meetings and strange strings of words start to babble forth. The question, my friends, is yes."
Russell Davie’s “Creative Directors Are Boring” post got me thinking. Specifically this part of it:
“Creatives are in charge. Planners aren't supposed to have ideas, just create space to have ideas."
Could it be that Russell has experienced working in “Silo environments” where he wasn’t allowed to have ideas because that hasn’t traditionally been part of his job description?
It got me thinking because I am currently working with an amazing team on a large site re-design project that is fairly high profile. The team I am working with contains lots of layers of folks right up to the top including several Creative Directors. The thing about it is that no one is getting territorial about their contributions. In fact, we are overlapping many of our our skills. Designers are writing copy, Copywriters are influencing nomenclature, and Marketing is providing some Creative Direction. It’s not perfect, but I have to say everyone is open to each other’s thinking and “playing in each others sandbox”.
To be honest, a good portion of my professional career has worked this way. Especially in the past three years. But I have to guess that there is still a healthy amount of “Team Silos” out there. Silo teams have clear and well-defined responsibilities. Work is passed on from one discipline to the next. Actually, I did see some work process like this even in interactive space where certain projects were planned, architected and then “skinned” in almost an assembly line fashion.
I know I’m oversimplifying with the Silos and Overlaps categories, but in essence the way we work with each other sometimes leans more toward one of these directions over the other. The question is—which way will we strive to lean?
Search engine optimization is hugely important. People can be directed to your site just by typing in a few related terms. It can profoundly affect the amount of traffic you get and can also influence the way people interact with your site.
BUT, while it is possible to design a site that completely caters to the prominent search engines like Google—we mustn't forget that our core objective is to design for people first. The people who need to do things on your site like get information, register, view account balances, or even just get little excited about the features and benefits of your products.
It’s tempting to design for the spiders. To organize information in ways that are optimized so that every bit of information on your site can be picked up by them. There is some middle ground here. You can design for people and BUILD for spiders. Certain compromises can be made in the build process that will help search indexing without dictating the user experience of your site. So get friendly with your developers. They can help ensure that a site design is both customer and search-centric.
I have to tell you—one of my pet peeves is talk without action. So when we talk about opening up brands to consumers, handing over control and allowing them to "co-create" with their consumers—we need to follow our own advice. So I'm opening up my own personal brand. I'm giving away a just a little of that control.
As of today, I'll be granting authoring privilages of Logic + Emotion to some other bloggers. I have no idea what they will be posting, and I will not approve their content before hand—they will control what they want to publish. My "guests" will represent the people who have been influencing me in this digital adventure. I hope you join me in extending a warm welcome to them—because as I stated earlier, this is not my blog. It's yours too.
Russell Davies says that "Creative Directors are boring". If he's talking about the "traditional" ego-driven type—I might agree. If he's talking about people like me, people who have not even grown up on the advertising side—then I might beg to differ.
Russell says this:
"When did planning get so deferrential? We're the future, not them."
So is it us (Creatives) VS. them (Planners)? I don't think so. I think Russell is referring to the old guard:
"The encouraging thing is that I think it's mostly a generational thing. Creative Directors like these are going to be grandfathered out by the imminent and inevitable demise of their agencies and the people labouring in their departments don't have the same myopia."
Now here comes the interesting part. While Russell complains about Creative Directors and making statements about Planners being the future—I have found that some of the most interesting people in blogging are out there actively making connections with creatives. Scott from Experience Planner and Dino from Chroma are two examples off the top of my head.
So I think Russell has a legitimate beef with the "old way" and most likely the outdated mentality of big, bloated advertising. But is the future really about the next generation of planners? Or is it broader?
Last excerpt from his post:
"Creatives are in charge. Planners aren't supposed to have ideas, just create space to have ideas."
Ahhhhh... now this is making sense to me. Russell is pissed off at creatives who don't want Planners to have ideas. Well, in my mind—that's not being a true creative. On my teams, I look to project managers, flash developers, and account people for ideas—because I have found out early on that a good idea can come from anywhere.
But as a Creative Director who gets into the whole "insight" thing—I hope Russell would welcome our participation on that side of the equation. The traffic needs to flow both ways.
Over the weekend I had three different kinds of interactive experiences. In each of them, I acted like three different kinds of people (more accurately mindsets).
A Navigator. An Explorer. And an Engaged Participant. Before I get into how I define these along with examples, allow me to make a few analogies:
Getting to the destination: Have you ever hopped in your car for your weekend getaway and all you cared about was getting there? You couldn’t care less about the scenery you passed on the way to the destination. All you want to do is get to that beach house, cabin, or whatever so your weekend can begin. Once you get behind the wheel—it’s all about navigating the path of least resistance.
Taking in the journey: Now suppose that you are on a different kind of trip where you’ve decided to take the side roads and make a few stops along the way. You’re curious about the area you are traveling in and want to explore what it has to offer. You still want to get to your destination, but the direct path doesn’t appeal to you as much as the more interesting nooks and crannies that you take in on the “scenic route”.
Stopping by for a spell: So let’s say that time isn’t an issue at all, and you really don’t have a pre-determined destination. Let’s say you buy a train ticket to a location you’ve never visited and you spend the day there, You visit with the local people, get to know a few of them by the end of the day, and even take some pictures back with you to share with a few friends.
So back to my three distinct interactive experiences that I had over the weekend. While doing my online banking, I realized I was being a Navigator. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and I quickly plotted my course to arrive at my destination (getting my bills paid).
But then, I turned into an Explorer while going through the RPA site. The site has this really interesting way of “navigating” through it that allows you to move through 3 dimensional space. There was also a more straight forward navigation bar at the top—but I choose to use my arrow keys to explore the space. I didn’t care as much about getting to point B as much as I did they way I got there.
And lastly, I acted like an Engaged Participant while playing Verizon’s Beatbox Mixer which I came across on 3 Minds. Since it was Saturday night and I had all the free time in the world—I killed some of that time by playing with the very cool mixer. I was delighted by the sounds and how I could manipulate and mix the vocals from each artist. And when I was done, I shared what I had done with some people that I knew would appreciate it.
So that’s my story. Sometimes we are Navigators. Sometimes we are Explorers. And other times, Engaged Participants. And sometimes we’re all three of these and more. Food for thought as we think about how we incorporate digital and non-digital experiences in our everyday lives.
Ok, I know. Misleading headline. Cut me some slack. I’m still a blogger after all. Erick Kintz over at HP’s Marketing excellence blog turned me on to a new viral campaign they recently “unveiled”. By unveiled, I mean that one of the initiatives is a blog that was originally non-branded with the exception of a few hints. Fingerskilz.tv is a collection of videos that show hands dressed as football players (world cup) doing some fancy moves with a wadded up ball of paper.
The blog yielded some interesting results according to Eric’s blog:
"Fingerskilz.tv has produced incredible results: 6.3 million hits, 180,000 unique visitors, average visit duration of 5.45 mins. It has also been selected in the top 6 World Cup virals by Boreme, a site that tracks virals: “The Fingerskilz clip is just dynamite - offering a miniature version of last week's featured ball skills”. A google searchproduced 22,000 results and the blog has been featured on a number of publications, online and offline as well as in the blogosphere."
It’s an interesting move that HP didn’t brand this until later—after the blog generated some buzz around it. But one thing I couldn’t help but thinking is why they didn’t open the source of the videos? Although if they did, maybe it would have blown their cover as regular blogs don’t do this. But maybe since the HP connection is out in the open now—they should consider adding it.
See? I was too lazy to create a screengrab for this post—but if I could have copied the video code from the blog ala You Tube style, you could be sure I would have included the Zidane clip right here. C’mon Eric, what do you think, how about some open source? :)
“The alternative is to compete not on left-brain attributes like
price and functionality, but on right-brain qualities such as emotion,
meaning, and look and feel. Case in point: Target sells toilet brushes
and vegetable scrubbers designed by superstar architect Michael Graves.
Even the most mundane, utilitarian objects in our lives have been
turned into objects of desire.”
Here's an interesting 37 Signals tidbit. According to The Tech Beat from Businessweek, the guys over at 37 Signals have decided to take on a VC Investor. But not just any investor. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is the sole VC investor (Bezos Expiditions to be exact).
“Since we launched Basecamp we’ve been contacted by nearly 30 different VC firms. We’ve never been interested in the typical traditional VC deal. With a few exceptions, all the VCs could offer us was cash and connections. We’re fine on both of those fronts. We don’t need their money to run the business and our little black book is full. We’re looking for something else.
What we’ve been looking for is the wisdom of a very special entrepreneur who’s been through what we’re going through. Someone who sees things a little differently and makes us feel right at home. Someone with a long term outlook, not a build-to-flip mentality. We found a perfect match in Jeff. Jeff is our kinda guy.”
Personally, I think this is a pretty smart move on both ends. For 37 Signals, it is in line with their strategy of keepings things small and simple. For Bezos—he's got a stake in a group of individuals who know how to produce the next generation of Web software. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Adtech is coming to Chicago next week and I’ll be facilitating a panel discussion (July 25th) focused on the different kinds types of Experience Design as seen through the eyes of three distinct creative professionals.
“More than ever, empowered consumers desire delight. And increasingly, digital experiences are becoming the most effective way to facilitate meaningful interactions that “touch” consumers lives. But not all experiences are created equal. Hear an uncensored discussion from three of the leading experience designers who take distinct approaches to designing for digital media.”
I’m really looking forward to it as Adtech draws a very influential crowd from all corners of the marketing world. And I’m excited to be talking about this topic—as it’s not a fad.
While others will be hyping up the latest in Social Media, WOM, RSS, and using other fancy acronyms—we’ll be discussing the value of providing a good 'ol fashioned experience and how important this is in bringing customers and brands together. So if you are in Chicago next week—come find me at the event and please do say hello. The lunch panels are open to the public.
What do Dell, Aol, Comcast, Coke, and Ford all have in common? Each has experienced first hand the effect of a new kind of “PR cycle” driven by immediate response (depicted here). This is a type of PR that hasn't traditionally existed until recent years—and is gaining momentum in a big way. So Dell launches a blog—who would even notice this in the “good old days”? In the old way, Dell would have done their thing and maybe sent out a press release. If they were lucky, they would have had a few news organizations pick up the story and maybe get a letter to the editor. But in today’s wired world, Dell’s blog has been one of the most talked about events in both traditional media and blogs where uncensored discussion happened almost immediately after. And let's not even get into the exploding laptop etc which only added more fuel to the fire so to speak .
And of course we can't forget AOL or Comcast, where in each case a “Power Consumer” armed with a recording device and social media technology was able to draw immediate attention to their story. Each caught the attention of the mainstream press early on. So are we looking at a new kind of PR? One where bloggers and mainstream media feed off of each other? How will companies choose to deal with instant feedback, criticism, dialogue and debate? Seems like the PR Pandora has left the box and isn’t going to be put back any time soon.
A while back, I created a visual titled “Anatomy of the New Creative Mind”. Download creative_mind.pdf I thought it would be interesting to use a “scientific” motif to help make the point that traditional creativity is evolving. My goal was to point out that a multi-disciplinary, multi dimensional way of creative thinking is needed in order to create the kinds of experiences/communications needed to traverse the ever changing digital media landscape.
Then I come across this article in the Times Online titled: The next step in brain evolution. The article makes the case that our brains ARE actually being re-wired as we engage in the “digital universe” and choose active encounters over passive consuming:
“To evangelists of the digital age such as Marc Prensky, an American consultant and author, modern interactive computer games are “deep, complex experiences” that challenge the intellect far more than, say, passively watching Big Brother.”
The article goes on to categorize people as either “digital natives” or “digital immigrants”. The core difference is that digital immigrants use much of the same technology—but not in the same ways as the “natives”. In other words, it doesn't come naturally.
“Technology is an essential part of my everyday social and academic life. I don’t know where I’d be without it. In fact, I’ve never really been without it.
That’s what makes Emily a “digital native”, one who has never known a world without instant communication. Her mother, Christine, on the other hand, is a “digital immigrant”, still coming to terms with a culture ruled by the ring of a mobile and the zip of e-mails. Though 55-year-old Christine happily shops online and e-mails friends, at heart she’s still in the old world. “Children today are multitasking left, right and centre — downloading tracks, uploading photos, sending e-mails. It’s nonstop,” she says with bemusement. “They find sitting down and reading, even watching TV, too slow and boring.”
The piece then goes on to describe how “digital natives’ engage in a "wiki" kind of thinking that allows for group development of ideas and thoughts combined with instant feedback:
“Just as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been built from the collective knowledge of thousands of contributors, so digital natives draw on the experience and advice of online communities to shape their interests and boundaries. A telling symptom is blogging. Where once schoolchildren and students confided only in their diaries, now they write blogs or entries on MySpace.com — where anyone can see and comment on them.”
And here is where the rubber hits the road for me. The article concludes that this kind of “evolution” in thinking and behavior is not limited to physical age. This is something that I believe in absolutely. Just as the evolved creative mindset is open to all—so is the choice to engage in emerging media (pending that you have access to it).
“Where is it all leading? Only one thing seems clear: changes propelled by the digital world are just beginning. Indeed, one of the markers between the natives and the immigrants — it’s not simply a question of age — is the intuitive acceptance of rapid digital change.”
Rapid digital change.
That’s a pretty accurate way to sum it all up. Rapid digital change is creating a kind of digital class structure—we are either “digital natives” or “digital immigrants” as the article suggests. But I would take the analogy one step further. I think the “digital immigrants” can choose to cling to the old ways and traditions or become digitally acculturated. Those who become digitally acculturated enjoy the best of both worlds—they can still appreciate their traditions while successfully adapting to the ways of the “digital natives”. Likewise, digital natives can learn much from their digital immigrant counterparts. For example, the intricacies of face to face interactions may not come as natural to a digital native and there is something to be said for sitting down with a book—sans iPod, mobile phone and PSP.
Here is how the article ends:
“Bostrom has no doubt that digital technology is influencing our mental processes. “Something as massive as our — for many people — daily interaction with computers and video players is bound to have a significant effect.” Anecdotally, it seems a lot of natives in this digital culture are apt at multitasking, doing several things in parallel. But nobody knows exactly what that effect will be. “In a sense it is a grand-scale experiment we are running. We are raising a whole generation in this totally new environment — without any firm evidence of what will happen to them.”
So in conclusion we don’t really know how this experiment will turn out—but the fact is that it’s an experiment in progress and the impact on human behavior is difficult to ignore. The results will help define how we make connections and build relationships. Because in the end, that is the universal human need.
Excellent article—you should read in it’s entirety. If you can sit still for that long. :)
I have a confession. I’ve been losing perspective. It happens to all of us. And I know I’ll get it back—I always do. I realized it today, where I usually figure out things like this—on the motorbike. I’ve got some stuff going on, and needed to clear my head. Before I get into my moment of clarity, let me take a moment to briefly describe one of my passions outside creativity and blogging. Riding a motorcycle taps into a deep spiritual need that I think we all have. When you’re on the road—up shifting, down shifting, breaking, leaning and of course squeezing the throttle, you're using every sense that you have and there’s no room to think of much anything else. It’s you, the road, the sound of the throaty engine and some cars around you which can take you out at any moment.
Today, I was traveling one of my normal routes when I noticed a deer drinking from a puddle along the side of the road. I didn’t get a picture of the deer—but it did pull over to watch it. I was probably less than 20 feet away. I watched that deer for about 5 minutes. It would gently sip the water. Lift it’s head. Look around for a bit—then get back to drinking. After watching the deer trot away, I fired up the bike again and took off. Then I had this thought:
I’m not pulling over in life as much as I need to be.
I could have passed by that doe and enjoyed it briefly from afar. I could have simply continued with the ride. But something told me to stop and pull over. And I was glad I did. Something about watching the animal filled me with peace. So now that I’ve had a little time to reflect, I’m fairly certain that this was a message. I need to pull over. I need to notice the everyday beauty in my own life. I need to slow that engine down—to downshift with one foot and break with the other. To gingerly lean and pull over to the side. I need to take in a few things before starting up again. I hope I can do it because I know it’s needed. When you’re riding—you don’t always notice the signs that pass you by. When you pull over, you see things from a different perspective.
In my mind, HP’s latest spots mark a quiet but meaningful turnaround in the saga of the 30 second spot. Here’s why. HP launches a new campaign—”The Computer Is Personal Again”, which on the surface seems typical. But take a closer look and there’s more to it than meets the eye. To start—the spots were launched online before going to television and they seem to be tailored to the “plugged in demographic” stressing the influence of the Social Media Network. From HP’s site:
“The next round of "The Computer is Personal Again" campaign - three commercials starring Mark Burnett, Mark Cuban and Pharrell Williams - will premiere online before appearing on television.
Previously released commercials featuring cultural icon Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and U.S. Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White generated overwhelmingly positive online chatter throughout the web and blogosphere.
"We are seeing great interest in the number of blog links and online buzz created by the first two ad spots," said David Roman, vice president of marketing communications, Personal Systems Group, HP. "Online video sites and their prominence in the blog community are today's 'word-of-mouth,' providing a very personal avenue to help HP reach an audience that doesn't necessarily respond to traditional media, but who will watch an ad online if it's been recommended by a well-liked blogger or a friend."
That last part about a “well liked blogger or a friend” is really critical. What the Ad world is experiencing is a shift in where viewers are going, and in the online space—it’s all about word of mouth. We’ll go find something if someone we know has said good things about it. And as the case is with You Tube—sometimes we don’t need to go very far (like how I’m featuring one of the Ads here).
But, here’s where I see signs of new life. First of all—I want to watch these ads. They are mesmerizing—hard to take your eyes off. And the idea is solid—to get people talking about technology in a non-technology way. OK, fine—Apple did it first. So what? These spots are distinct enough to live on their own. And here is another key move to this new 30 second formula. The inclusions of relevant influencers like "Jay-Z" and Mark Cuban. Cuban is a brilliant choice. He spans multiple worlds—influencing both sports fans and bloggers. The way the ads use these individuals is key. It’s not the old school endorsement. In fact, the individuals in the spots never mention HP.
And of course you can create your own spot, complete with your photos etc. Check out what fellow blogger Eric Kintz created. Eric, I have to say—your spot is both cool and freaky. I didn’t expect to see you with an 80’s hair band doo. I’m still recovering.
So what do you think? Is this type of campaign the new 30 second spot? Is the formula something like better creative + online integration + You Tube + Co-creation? Will it all equal the re-birth of the 30 second spot? And what does this mean for all of the ho-hum marketing that is still served up en masse through our “Moo Tubes”?
Is that cash cow enjoying it’s final days? And how long till it goes out to pasture?
Oh yeah. last thought. The ever crafty Goodby, Silverstein & Partners are behind this latest effort. Good stuff, but I'm still waiting for the GSPB (Goodby Silverstein & Partners Blog).
The fact that the MarketingProfs blog has been down over the past day has given me an opportunity to consider some larger, more existential, issues. To wit: Is a blogger still a blogger if she doesn’t have a blog?
Tangentially, that question made me consider the label of "blogger." For example, I am always referring to my friends on this blog or others as my "Blog Friend Forever" or "Best Blogging Buddy" or sometimes simply, "fellow blogger." There’s a closeness implied by blogging, and a familiarity entrenched here. What's more, there is the sense that we define ourselves by, well...blogging.
But what this time in the darkness has taught me is that I desperately need to challenge those assumptions. If I am without my blog, can I still consider myself a blogger? Do
I still have a voice, even? As David wondered here and on the Daily Fix: do I matter? If a tree falls in the forest....do you see where I'm going here?
Suddenly, the "blogger" label seemed inadequate to describe the various nuances and little-known personal histories of the people I read and interact with every day. So I've launched an effort to find out more about those of us who live and breathe here in BlogLand. At least it'll pass the time until my blog is back up.
In the meantime, share a few little-known facts about yourselves here. What don't we know?
Well, apparently good karma does not pay off, since Ann Handley was very kind to me during my "Blogout". So in return—karma has decided to kick Ann's ass. Blogger style. The Marketing Profs Daily Fix is down for the count. Ann, I'm opening up L+E and giving you author privileges. You know what to do.
Typepad was down for the count today but is now back up (obviously)—and it inspired me to come up with a new Top Ten. I published this on Marketing Profs and sent Typepad's PR rep a note about it. Here was her response:
“David, enjoyed reading your post. Very sorry TypePad was down.
You can post it on TypePad now!
Thought that was a pretty cool response—a good customer experience you could say. And definitely good PR. Note how Jane even encourages me to post this on Typepad. So good for you Six Apart. Now please don't drop service again. I contemplated drastic measures (like watching TV).
Top 10 Things You Can Do During A “Blogout”
10. Catch up on e-mail—it’s the next best thing to getting that “blog fix.”
9. Visit some news sites. Oh my gosh, there are current events that don’t involve Scoble, Amanda, and Rubel?? Who knew?
8. Read a book, magazine, or something else that won’t give you an error message, stop working and leave you to face your addiction alone.
7. Go home early—what’s the point of being in the office?
6. Actually leave your desk and talk to people—they’ll think you really want to talk to them but won’t realize it’s only because you can’t blog.
5. Take your kid to a movie, but forget about blogging about it afterward because you can’t.
4. Draft future posts about how you spent your “downtime.” (Top 10 lists are usually popular.)
3. Use the experience to quit “stat checking” cold turkey. Who am I kidding?? I’ll start the minute it’s up again.
2. Think about what you're going to write in your complaint note to your bloggy service provider “Dear Typepad—I hate you. But I love you. I’m so confused...please come back.”
1. Actually get work done. Scratch that. Find a blog platform that’s working (like this one) and blog about the whole crummy experience.
I feel so much better. So how about you? What do you do to survive a “blog outage”?
Here is a simple visual to represent what many of us may be currently experiencing in the workplace. Most companies leverage the traditional reporting hierarchy which has worked for generations. But in addition to this, we are increasingly seeing smaller teams breaking out into streamlined work groups.
These teams may be composed of individuals from different “tiers” in the traditional hierarchy representing a variety of disciplines. Some managers have advocated for more smaller, faster, leaner teams. Others advocate for more formality, structure and rigor. Some companies blend both equally. What has your experience been?
You may or may not have heard of The Barbarian Group, but chances are you've seen some of the work they've done for brands such as Saturn, VW, Comcast and Burger King. Subservient Chicken ring a bell? They played a role in that. The Barbarian Group is an interesting agency model—they push interactive technologies and creativity to the limit and often work behind the scenes partnering with larger agencies as well as working directly with clients.
"We're not the interactive version of an ad agency. But we are also not exactly the interactive version of a production company. We're kind of like hiring a director and a production company and a vfx company, with some great creative/art direction thrown in. Agencies don't keep stables of 20 full-time directors to do their best broadcast spots, so why do it in interactive? "
I recently had a chance to catch up with Rick Webb, co-founder and Lead Barbarian for a little Q+A. Here's how it went:
DA: The first time I heard "Barbarian Group" I thought it was a unique name (I like it much better than Vector). I also like that you refer to each other as "Barbarians". What's the meaning behind the name and why did it win out over your other choices?
RW: Oh God. It was one of those endless meetings where you keep trying to think up names and you are completely exhausted, and don't want to pay attention anymore. The four of us - Me, Ben, Keith and Robert - were sitting in Ben's house and Keith and I were having trouble keeping our curiosity up. We got distracted and started talking about Civilization 3, which was coming out that week, and I cheekily mentioned the Barbarian Hordes in the game.
Ben latched onto it and said "that's it!" He liked it because it wasn't too agency sounding, like all our other names were, and it could be imprinted upon anything. He also thought it sounded good because it "struck fear into the hearts of our enemies. " I do think it forces us to maintain a rock and roll attitude, and not take things too seriously.
I also like the linguistic quirks of things like calling ourselves "Barbarians." We have our own copy style guide, and making sure the tone is professional but fun is vitally important to us.
It's ridiculous how poor corporate communication in America has gotten.
DA: Looking at some of the work produced for Discover, Comcast and Method—there is a high degree of interactively combined with a "big idea". What does a typical Barbarian team look like and how would you describe how team members work with each other + clients?
RW: The standard team on a medium to large project has changed through the years. Early on it was one tech, one project manager, and one creative, who also did the Flash. Since two of the three people on that team were usually partners in the company, lots of oversight, account service, etc., wasn't needed. Over the years, we've expanded our offerings and capabilities to include more straight up design, copy writing, and other services, so a typical team could be much larger now. The base is still a producer, a tech lead and a creative lead, but there may also be a copywriter, a Flash person or designer who isn't the creative lead. We may also have more than one programmer, if needed, a separate producer for a video shoot, if there is one, and there's always a partner on the team to make sure things are kosher, though we're usually performing one of the above roles.
We've experimented heavily through the years trying to find the right size of a team, and trying to find out how to keep the creative as pure as possible. We're on maybe our fourth model now, but we're all liking this one a whole lot. We're pretty strict and picky about who we hire, and everyone's ridiculously talented, so we have the luxury of experimenting some without worrying too much things will get messed up.
Working with the agencies varies so much it's kind of ridiculous. We have about 20 agencies we regularly work with, and every one of them has a different work style, and every job has a different level of engagement. The one consistent trick is that the producer and I always try and find the best way to work with the agency, and our producer is actively engaged in managing the project. I dream of making it more process-driven, and we do apply rigorous project management techniques, but recently we've come to terms with the fact that agencies are all very different, and we'll always be striving to work with them more efficiently. That's not to say many agencies don't bend over backwards to try and work with us in what we perceive to be the most efficient manner, of course. Only that, well, it's hard.
In the big picture, when it works, it works brilliantly. Strategic and creative minds meld into one, and it all falls into place who should do what. We're lucky, and that happens more often than not. Agencies are actively trying to bring us in earlier and earlier, which is helping immeasurably.
RW: Tell the truth. It's our secret weapon. It's amazing how often people won't say what they're thinking, or call things like they are.
DA: The internet has really gained traction in the past two years partly because of advances in technology and broadband—but also because of the shift in media consumption with an increased appetite for interactive. How has this shift affected The Barbarian Group?
RW: Okay, so I'm telling everyone this these days. If you're an innovator on the web, advertising is the new venture capital. Eight years ago, if you had a good idea for an internet site, you got your money from a VC - the "amazon" model. Five years ago, if you had an awesome idea, you went ahead and built it with a bunch of your similarly unemployed friends - the "Flickr" model. Now, if you have an awesome idea, you should get the money from advertisers. We view ourselves as innovators at heart. We love advertising and we understand brands, but deep down we're internet nerds. And this increased appetite for interactive, and the commensurate newfound attention from advertisers, has subconsciously shaped us, I think. We do this because it's where the freedom is. It's where the action is.
And advertisers don't force board members on you when they give you money.
DA: What are some of your favorite "Non Barbarian" examples of great interactive work? Why?
RW: I love the Time Magazine Person of the Year site that ran in Times Square last winter, by RGA. I love the Ikea stuff that Foresman did in Sweden. I love everything North Kingdom does. I love the Goo stuff that Ground and Dentsu do in Japan. I love Yugo Nakamura, Erik Natzke. I am confining myself to interactive advertising here, which is an important distinction. I'm not talking interactivity in general. I love these from a design geek point of view. I love these because they are beautiful, fluid, surprising, different, ground breaking. They may not always be the most effective advertising, but they're the ones that I am envious of deep down.
DA: Much of the work you produce is Flash heavy and experiential. How do you approach things like basic usability and user experience?
RW: We are totally lax and intuitive about it. We do advertising. We don't do banking sites. We all know it, of course, from "back in the day," and we care about it. But when you're making a Subservient Chicken or a beer site, it's not necessarily foremost in your mind, nor should it be. More and more, though, as flash minisites fall by the wayside and we expand our horizons, the old ways have been making a comeback. We're using CVS again. We're making wireframes again. We've finally made a QA policy at the Barbarian Group. We still haven't put anything through a usability lab, though.
DA: What about project management? How does that fit in?
RW: Project management is a ridiculous obsession of ours. We actively, ruthlessly seek the best interactive project managers we can find. They run every project. Because our clients are so consistently different, the project managers are our saviors. We don't have account service. Our PMs fulfill that role as well.
DA: What are your greatest sources of inspiration? What motivates you to get up in the morning and do it all over again?
RW: I could talk about heroes (ahem Tony Wilson and Peter Saville), but I think the thing that keeps me going is how far we come. Five years ago, we had some theories about how things worked in this little niche of where the internet meets advertising. They were totally validated. It makes you wonder about your other theories. It makes you wonder what else you could do. In the words of Gore Verbinski, in this week's Entertainment Weekly, if you're going to fail, fail big. I figure we'll keep plowing ahead until our theories turn out to be misguided. And having the opportunity to find this out about these ideas is what keeps me going.
It's a weird experience, being able to investigate your wildest, most grandiose theories.
DA: There is talk of interactive agencies becoming "traditional"-doing "safe" things like online advertising, sitelets and going after the industry awards for validation. What's your take on this? And how do you feel about emerging media such as Social Networks?
RW: This was a HUGE, soul-searching issue for us this year. It would be so easy to turn into the next RGA. It's too soon to say much more than I have already about exactly why, but I am confident in the next 12 months it'll be radically apparent that we have no such intentions. It's a serious concern, though, and God knows it's very tempting. The holding companies circle. Money is dangled. You get good at something, and it's easy to fall into a rut. We're struggling mightily to avoid, or get out, of that rut. I think the hard part is behind us. We're radicalized now.
We want to change the world.
DA: In one word-describe the "essence" of The Barbarian Group
RW: 21st century punk rock. oh wait, that's like four. ummm... earnest?
A while back, I posted about HP's blogs and put forth this question: Where are all the agency blogs? Organic's 3 Minds has been kicking it quite nicely for a while. Avenue A/Razorfish has The Workplace—and I recently came across this blog from Fallon. Looks like it's maintained by a fairly large group of planners at Fallon who blog about a range of topics:
"Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding."
So, it would appear that there are a few official agency blogs. Looks like the planners have taken the lead for the most part. There must be more. Does anyone know of any others?
“Trusted gatekeeper" doesn't necessarily translate to professional
anything. Trusted gatekeeper translates to whom I trust. Period. It's
not about the medium or format, but it is all about the person, the
source and the reputation.”
~Max Kalehoff via The Boston Globe's Business Filter
So Coke wasn’t a big fan of the whole Mentos thing. They couldn’t control it. They didn’t agree with the way that Diet Coke was being used. They wanted complete control over their brand and what it stands for. Here is how they responded to the whole thing (via WSJ).
"It's an entertaining phenomenon," said Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. "We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it." Coke could use some extra buzz right now. Sales volume of Diet Coke in the U.S. was essentially flat last year, as consumers switch from diet sodas to bottled water and other noncarbonated drinks. But Ms. McDermott says that the "craziness with Mentos ... doesn't fit with the brand personality" of Diet Coke."
But wait—Coke learned from this experience. They figured out that consumers don’t just want to “consume” products and brands—they want to get creative with them. They want an open mic. They want a platform. They want a voice, and they want to be both seen and heard.
So Coke is now giving it to them. On Coke’s terms of course. From Adweek:
“as of this week, visitors to Coke.com can take part in "The Coke Show," monthly "challenges" testing their creativity.
In the first challenge, set to run through August, users are invited to submit short videos, but they're not limited to creating ads or odes to the brand. Instead, Coke is asking for 45-second video expressions of "the essence of you." Visitors will rate submissions, culling them down to 10, which will be judged by a group of professional filmmakers.
Coke got a lesson in the power of consumer creativity with the recent hit viral video of two men creating geysers with Diet Coke and Mentos (when combined, they spark a liquid explosion). Asked about it, a Coke representative told The Wall Street Journal in June that it was "entertaining," but didn't "fit with the brand personality."
Now, Coke is giving consumers a fair amount of free rein-with boundaries. "We give the structure, we try to give the guidance, but we're looking for consumers to fill it with content that's relevant to them rather than us talking to them," said representative Andras Kallos. The site, created by independent AKQA, will roll out in 28 markets.”
And note the agency that will be working on this kind of initiative. AKQA. Not the big bloated traditional “above the line” agency. Well, the effort is not perfect—it would be nice if Coke was less controlling of their brand, but at least they are willing to acknowledge the desire for people to want to engage with brands by creating content with and for them.
I think it’s taboo or something to re-cycle previous blog material—but hey, I can still claim ignorance. After all, I just found out last week who Steve Rubel is (Thank you Karl ), and it's only been recently that I stopped thinking Doc Searls was a character from the Love Boat.
So, the reason why I am referencing the Round World Flat World visual again is because in retrospect—this was a key theme in the Podcast I did with Jaffe. In the Podcast, I mention that my introduction with Jaffe would have never worked the traditional way. I had two previous encounters with Joseph “traditionally”. First when we met at Battle for the Heart and next when I shot him an e-mail to come check out L+E. But it took the Social Media Network to bring us together in a meaningful way. Next, I reference that the whole reason Logic + Emotion came to be was that I couldn’t get my ideas out the “traditional” way. As I mentioned—I’ve had some of this thinking in the works for some time. But there was never an opportunity to share them. And if I initiated a whitepaper idea, it was put aside by one or two individuals who “owned the brand” of the establishment I was working at and they didn't see a fit.
Maura Welch from the Boston Globe recently commented on the going mainstream post and that got me thinking as well about the traditional and non-traditional way of doing things. It’s not very common for the media to do things like comment on blogs. That’s fairly new. That’s not traditional. And back to the podcast, the way that Jaffe referenced the upcoming Seth Godin appearance and went out of his way to detail my role in it. That’s not traditional either—the whole story behind how Seth got involved wasn't traditional.
What’s happening here? Can everything we do be traced back to a traditional vs. non-traditional way of doing things? It’s probably not that simple, but you really have to ponder this stuff while it happens. People are meeting and connecting differently than they used to. I just had about 20 e-mail exchanges with my BFF’s (Blog Friends Forever) Ann Handley, Karl Long, and Mack Collier. And get this: I still have no idea what Ann and Mack sound like—and if it weren’t for one Skype enabled phone call that I shared with Karl, the first time I would have heard his voice would have been on a Podcast.
So it’s not just business that feels the effect of the flat world phenomenon—it’s everyday interactions, relationships and engagements.
As I look back at the opportunities I have been awarded by being a “non traditionalist”—it’s astounding.
Just something to consider as we all watch the “shift” in real time.
Well, it’s live. My co-hosting of the second most popular marketing Podcast (according to iTunes). #42 of Joseph Jaffe’s Across The Sound is up. I hope I did OK. Chatting it up with Jaffe is harder than you think. He’s got an incredible presence, is sharp as a knife and to top it all off, there’s that accent. To put this in context—my wife was listening to the recording and she instantly fell in LOVE with Jaffe’s voice. I’m not kidding. I was like “Hey honey—what about me? How did i do??”
So, I hope I did justice to the some areas I care about. I tried to use the discussion to “promote” four issues:
-The Logic + Emotion story
-The evolution of creativity
-The importance of building brands while creating community + converZAtion (Jaffe picks on my sporadic Lawng Eyesland accent)—But note that I’m not the one who mangled Vincent "FerraZI's" name... :)
-The need for Advermarketing to create both good experiences + interactive stories
So the morale of the story is this: doing the podcast was fun—but I really need to work on my “radio voice”. Oh and for the single fellas out there—if you are competing for a ladie's attention with a gentleman who has both smarts and a foreign accent—just hang up your hat and walk away.
Hope you enjoy the podcast.
Oh yeah. Last point. Jaffe announced a big time guest that you will want to know about. I won’t give it away—but here’s a hint. This person is on everyone’s blogroll. Except mine.
It’s happening. Higher education is getting serious about creativity in addition to academia. Check out this story about what Tufts University is doing with their admissions process. Rather then over-analyze this—I’ll simply pull a few choice quotes:
“This year, applicants to Tufts will also have the option of answering very different kinds of questions. They might be asked to write a short story to fit the title “Confessions of a Middle School Bully” or “The End of MTV.”
“Or they could create an advertisement or ad campaign for a product that doesn’t exist. Other exercises might be timed and prompted by videos. They could watch a film about a situation they might face in college — such as going to a professor to ask for a recommendation only to realize that the professor doesn’t know you — and write a short piece about what they would do.”
“To be sure, some colleges are more creative than others with their essay prompts. But at Tufts, these various essays and exercises won’t be evaluated as a new way of judging mastery of vocabulary or history, but with specific tools to measure creativity and other factors that aren’t strictly academic.”
“The idea is to change the admissions process from one that focuses only on a subset of analytic qualities — the kinds that can be measured by grades and test scores — and to look more broadly at ways to measure creativity and leadership potential. The approach is based on the work of Robert Sternberg, a psychologist who specializes in measuring intelligence and promoting creativity.”
“Several leading advocates for reforms in college admissions were thrilled to hear about the Tufts experiment. “Colleges say that they want to educate people to be creative about knowledge and society, but the things that they look at in admissions don’t have anything to do with that,”
“Tufts is undertaking this experiment at a time that it is attracting more and more applicants. More than 15,000 students applied this year and 27 percent were admitted, to produce a class of 1,275.”
“It’s not that the analytical skills measured by the SAT aren’t important,”... “But they aren’t enough. We have to stop putting so much emphasis on only a sliver of the abilities that kids can bring to college.”
Are you still thinking about creativity as an “exclusive” gift that only a select group of individuals have? What about the role of creativity in business? In building brands and experiences?
Creativity. Stay Tuned.
Eric Kintz of HP recently ended a thoughtful post about extending the social media network with this thought:
”what will it take to transform this emerging community into a viral marketing network beyond the blogosphere?”
Which created some interesting discussion about the need to branch out of the blogosphere as to avoid “talking to ourselves”. I especially like how Ann Handley puts it:
“One of the reasons why many people -- marketers or otherwise -- might not read blogs is that the blogosphere has functioned in its own little orbit. From where I sit -- one foot in the so-called blogosphere and one foot not -- I see that changing in a big way every day, even for those real working professionals. "Blogging," after all, is nothing more than a way of delivering content...but the advantage to it is that it allows us to listen, as well.”
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the manstream media. Boston.com (The Boston Globe) picks up the Tipping Point graphic that I created (via Futurelab). Total coincidence. Then, Mack and Ann get a shout out for Marketing Profs and Mack’s Top 25 lists. There was even a reference to Mark Hurst’s Good Experience.
So what’s going on here? Make no bones about it. We in the blogoshpere are not alone. Intelligent forms of life are watching us and reading our words (listening to podcats and watching vlogs). We can either thumb our noses, or embrace and encourage more of this. To me—it’s a no-brainer. The mainstream still holds the key to the mass influencers we would all love to reach. It’s time to “walk with them” as Mack Collier would say.
So Amanda is leaving Rocketboom—by now that’s old news. And rather then get into the drama behind it, I’d like to call some attention to what I think is a bigger issue:
Retaining your talent.
Jason Calacanis serves up some compelling food for thought here:
“Amanda has printed her back and forth with her former partner Andrew Baron--it's really sad. This is a text-book example of how not to treat your talent (and frankly, how not to respond when you're treated bad). The whole thing is a mess and everyone winds up losing.
Regardless, there are some great lessons here for business folks. When you're on the business side your job is to:
1. Keep talented folks focused on making great product.
2. Get talented people paid (so they can focus on making great product)
3. Let talented people grow and support the hell out of them (so they can focus on making great product)
4. Make talented people feel comfortable that they are not going to get screwed (so they can focus on making great product)
5. Make a bunch of money (so talented folks can get more money and get more focused on making great product)”
As Jason eludes, I think this development goes beyond the blogoshphere to a basic truth that we see in a competative marketplace. Finding talent is tough. Keeping it can be even tougher. Is it any surprise that Amanda is moving her career forward despite that she’s been “fired”? A co-worker and I were chatting about this scenario last week before it even happened. We mused about how long it would take for Amanda to go primetime—I mentioned how I could easily envision her hosting something like a Daily Show. Amanda just has “it”. It is that thing—that separates her from everyone else. The talent which is hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. It was difficult not to want to watch Amanda—she has that kind of screen presence.
But it’s not all about the glamour here—and I’m not talking about prima donnas. Think about the teams that you manage who create, write, develop and build engaging interactive experiences. Think about skills like the ability to tell engaging stories. A talent for finding out what really motivates customers. A sheer gift for visual or multimedia design. Maybe even an instinct for fresh ideas and thinking. Think about the talent that surrounds you on a daily basis—and what motivates these kinds of individuals. Think about the challenges they crave and the rewards they seek. Think about how good (or maybe not so good) you have it with a talented team at your disposal.
Think about how you can serve your team.
If you are surrounded by talent, you are in a rare position you should value—if not cherish. If you manage talent, it’s your responsibility to nourish that talent on a daily basis. There was one portion on Amanda’s blog that really stood out for me:
“In fact, it saddens me that you have not had the time and/or willingness to significantly participate creatively in Rocketboom for some months now. We've sent you things during the production process, and what we've received back is criticism after the show has already been produced or after it is too late to make changes. Statements like "I'll continue to check my blackberry but please don’t wait on me if it starts to slow you down" and "I will have my phone so I can still chime in but don’t feel ever wait on me for any answers if I cant respond in time" really don't cut it.”
Read between the lines. What Amanda wanted was acknowledgement of her creativity. Her performance. Maybe even some suggestions to make her "product" better while was being produced. What she got instead was acute aloofness and an “I’m too busy for this” attitude. Also—it sounds like she got “unconstructive criticism” too late in the game. Nothing kills the creative spirit faster than this combination.
So, here’s what you need to know. It’s a flat world. If you have talent in your organization—it’s not difficult for others to see their talent in today’s uber-connected landscape. And whether you fire your talent—or they leave you on their own, truly talented individuals have a way of rising to the top.
Tip of the hat to Jaffe for the Calcanis link and "Rocketbust" reference.
The Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen help fuel the growth of the Social Media Network (shown behind). Each type of individual possesses a complimentary quality that when combined, creates an infectious momentum which spreads rapidly.
* Connectors: Those with wide social circles. They are the "hubs" of the human social network and responsible for the small world phenomenon.
* Mavens are knowledgeable people. While most consumers wouldn't know if a product were priced above the market rate by, say, 10 percent, mavens would. Bloggers who detect false claims in the media could also be considered mavens.
* Salesmen are charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They exert "soft" influence rather than forceful power. Their source of influence may be the tendency of others, subconsciously, to imitate them rather than techniques of conscious persuasion.
Note: based off Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point
HP’s Eric Kintz has a really interesting read today over at HP’s Marketing Excellence blog. Yes, L+E does get a mention—but that’s not why you should read it. Eric takes principals from Gladwell’s Tipping Point and applies them to what he sees going on in the social network and it's a really good read:
“I have always been fascinated by the impact of viral networks on social events and marketing word of mouth. One of my favorite books is the Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell, which studies epidemics and applies the learning to explain such social phenomenon as the crime drop in NYC or Sesame Street. One of my main interests in joining the blogosphere was to better understand the emergence of viral blogging networks and other social effects of web 2.0. I was very disappointed when I launched my blog 3 months ago and did not see any real marketing blogging community that I could connect into. The Marketing community was a fragmented ecosphere with a few thought leaders such as Seth Godin or Ben McConnell.
And suddenly, a few players emerged that substantially changed the marketing social blogging network. I have been trying to think about their role in terms of the first law of an epidemic, the “law of the few”.
Eric goes on to make comparisons of some emerging players that he sees actively taking the roles of “Connectors” “Mavens” and “Salesmen”. Some of the examples he includes are Ann Handley, Mack Collier, Toby Bloomberg, Eric Mattson as well as myself. Can you guess who is Maven and who is Salesman? But then Eric goes on to conclude his analysis with some really thought provoking stuff:
“The marketing blogging social network is growing exponentially as experienced by the Alexa ranking threshold that you now need to achieve to be on the Viral Marketing ranking list. However, bloggers have a distorted view of their importance. We forget that being big in the blogosphere still doesn't mean anything to 99% of the country. The risk for vibrant blogging communities is to be “trapped” in the blogosphere, which can quickly limit their epidemic effectiveness. So what will it take to transform this emerging community into a viral marketing network beyond the blogosphere?”
“So what do you think? What will it take to spread the “epidemic” to the other 99% marketers?”
I like this last point. The Social Network is both viral and a community in the same breath. And it’s influential. But—it’s still a minority when you compare it to mainstream forces and the Forresters of the world. They still have the ear of the people we would love to reach. But that is definitely changing. Blogs are becoming a source of breaking news, refreshingly alternative thinking and of course community that entices active participation. But to Eric’s point—”what will it take to transform this emerging community into a viral marketing network beyond the blogosphere?”
What happens when you do work that is creative, innovative and well designed? Eventually, you get bought. According to Adweek—Omnicom, parent company to a host of agencies including TBWA, DDB, BBDO, and Porter Novelli among others has announced that it recently purchased a majority stake of EVB, a 6-year-old interactive agency that specializes in immersive interactive brand experiences.
“NEW YORK Omnicom Group said it has bought a majority stake in EVB, a 6-year-old San Francisco Web shop that does work for Adidas and Kellogg's.
In EVB, Omnicom adds a 50-plus person creative shop well versed in creating Flash-driven brand sites. It recently launched an Adidas site for Kevin Garnett's new sneaker that used original footage and 3-D imagery of the National Basketball Association star.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
EVB joins Omnicom's roster of interactive agencies, which include Organic, Agency.com, Atmosphere BBDO and Tribal DDB. EVB CEO and founder Daniel Stein and executive creative director Jason Zada will continue to lead the agency.”
It's an interesting move for Omnicom because If you loook at their roster—EVB would be considered is a highly creative "Botique" compared to some of the larger interactive agencies Omnicon holds. One has to guess if they are diversifying their agencies to handle both the "bread and butter" type work as well as the more progressive stuff.
And it will be interesting to see how this impacts EVB. You’ll notice that I included EVB in my blogroll under “practitioners”—that was because they’ve pushed in envelope in interactive marketing. I hope they’ll still be able to keep their edge with this acquisition. We’ll have to wait and see. :)
Update: As of now, Jaffe and I will definitely be recording a Podcast this weekend. We had to re-schedule a couple of times. So, I need to be prepared to discuss two topics of my choosing. Or is it OUR choosing? I have a few ideas—but maybe you do too? Below are a few topics I have in mind:
1. Agency 2.0: Advertising agencies are scrambling to stay relevant and evolve their offerings. Colleen DeCourcy’s departure from i-shop Organic to JWT symbolizes the move. Draft and FCB merging is also related. Lines are being blurred between above the line and below the line agencies and internally, lines need to be blurred even more as a new breed of multi dimensional creative thinkers is needed to drive creative strategies across a plethora of touch points and channels.
2. The Power Consumer + The Customer Experience: Customer experience matters. That’s what AOL and Comcast were all about. Poor customer experiences that ignited an empowered consumer to take action. Do advertising agencies even get customer experience? What about marketing firms, or even PR firms? What role will the customer experience play in advermarketing as the media shift continues?
3. Building Communities through the Social Media Network: People are connecting, sharing information, ideas and dreams in ways that never existed before. Consumers are looking to the “influencers” for credible information and "straight talk". The bloggers, vloggers, and “micro celebrities” are individuals that they relate to. Scoble, Hugh, Kathy, etc.—we want to know what they think because we trust them more than we do traditional marketing. The names aren’t totally mainstream yet—but the people who read the thoughts are often time influencers themselves. What does this “community of influencers” mean to the future of marketing/advertising—and can this community go mainstream?
4. The Role of Design + Creativity in Advermarketing: Design and creativity have taken brands like Target, Apple, and Nike to new heights. Companies like P&G have re-invented themselves by incorporating design innovation as part of the fabric of their culture. But what does this mean to the advertising or marketing agency? Do agencies even get design and innovation? What about usability? What is the role of design in today’s agency. Is it more than good looks? And how do we define creativity as we move beyond the 30 second spot (and even “traditional” interactive)...
So these are my thoughts so far. Let me know what YOU think.
No—this probably won't be the interface of the future. If you watch closely, the movements aren't natural. You really have to get your body into it to move the screen a little. That said—it's cool as hell and gets pretty close to Sci-Fi technology as envisioned on movies like The Minority Report. Interesting stuff. Wonder what the team looked like behind this effort...
There is a scene in Superman Returns where a boy uses his phone to snap a photo of Superman lifting a car to safety. Ironically, the photo is visually similar to the No. 1 edition of the Superman comic (above)—which I’m sure is an intentional statement. But the cool thing about this scene is that the journalists at the Daily Planet are looking for photos to use on the front cover of the Newspaper—and they can’t find any as good as the one that the boy took with his phone. So, citizen journalist gets a little validation.
It’s a subtle nod to the power of Consumer Generated Media. And the way the movie did it was pretty clever. The photo taken was shown in black and white and even decribed by the journalist as “iconic”. So CGM has officially come of age. When Hollywood incorporates something like this in a film—you know it’s become part of the culture.
If you claim to be interested in where marketing is heading, then you really ought to take a look at Mack Collier and his Viral Garden—which is turning out to be an interesting case study in how to grow your personal brand in record time. Mack’s Viral Garden Blog has recently cracked the top 10 in his own Top 25 list of Marketing blogs (debuted at #8) mostly because he is utilizing effective strategies and tactics aligned with all things 2.0 (Marketing, Brand, and Community). In fact, that’s an interesting way to break it down:
1. Marketing: Did a top 25 marketing list even exist before Mack Collier hit the scene? If it did, I never heard of it. Mack came up with a killer idea that has drawn the influencers to him and gets us talking about what he is doing (like I am doing here). That’s a brilliant strategy that any brand would benefit from. Mack says that he’s terrible at self promotion, but in reality he’s drumming up the best kind—getting others to speak about him. The Top 25 list is what initially raises awareness about Mack and his Viral Garden—it’s the equivalent of viral marketing buzz campaign. And it’s effective. But once you are drawn in—Mack rewards you with providing readers a quality experience on his blog—which leads to the next step in this 1-2-3 knockout combination... the brand experience he serves up.
2. Brand Experience: Mack’s brand is consistent and differentiated. His style of writing is both distinctive and appealing. Mack doesn’t mince words and shoots from the hip. Point in case—note how Mack states the need for prominant bloggers to join their communities vs. passively feeding them content:
“Don't lock yourself up in an ivory tower and call down to your crowd that 'you guys just don't get me'. They don't 'get' you because you won't JOIN them.”
You don’t have to read between the lines to get Mack’s point. And further, Mack offers a consistent EXPERIENCE that his personal brand portrays. He responds to comments quickly and does so in the same voice that he writes in. His personal brand experience is consistent across a variety of touch points you could say. Mack is building his brand in a not so different way than we’ve seen with Google, Firefox, or even Flickr—he provides a service/experience that others will talk about and he invites feedback and participation along the way.
In other words, Mack Collier is an open source brand.
3. Community: Talk to anyone in the Marketing blogosphere and they’ll tell you that Mack Collier and Community are nearly synonymous. When Mack isn’t blogging—he’s practicing what he preaches by going out to other people’s blogs and commenting. He’s planting seeds and engaging people in conversations. He’s making introductions and he often will post not only about new blogs that he comes across—but how they somehow link back to him. He’s embraced the Social Network as not just a place to spread ideas but spread and sustain relationships in meaningful ways. In a short amount of time—Mack has become a master at this.
Now, here’s a little trick. Go back and read this post and imagine that the name of a brand like “Coke” was swapped out in every place that I’ve written"Mack". This is where the rubber hits the road. The reason why marketers should pay close attention to Mack's story is because the big brands can benefit from this type of 1-2-3 combination as well. Imagine if this post and dozens of others from influential individuals sang the praises of “Coke” and urged people to try a new product. Or maybe it’s not even about a product. Maybe it’s just about how Coke is more than just a beverage...
The bottom line is that what Mack is doing goes beyond blogging.
Even beyond community. It’s really interesting to take a step back and think about it as it unfolds in real time. The Viral Garden is currently at #8. Seths Blog is at #1. One blog is written by a published author several times over who travels the world and speaks to scores of marketers everywhere. The other by a less known individual who pounds the virtual pavement building his brand one post at a time. The Viral Garden has been around for three Months while Seth’s Blog has been around for over three years. Yet they both exist in the Top 10. It’s an interesting nugget to chew on in a world where marketing, advertising and media are being turned on their collective heads.