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...a story that is never completely told...

...a story that is never completely told...

A great brand is a story that is never completely told.”

I just clocked this over at TIGS, what a great quote. I was sitting having breakfast with a good friend yesterday morning and he was wondering aloud why some brands that couldn’t possibly have been bigger all of a sudden become tiny before disappearing completely. He was talking about a particular American beer (whose name I can’t remember) that was the Budweiser of its day (I couldn’t imagine saying anything more insulting about a beer, except maybe this).

This has me thinking about brand extension – do brands therefore extend themselves because they finish the story they set out to tell? Once extended, do they find their story wasn’t al that interested in the first place?

Thinking about the uber-brands, Cadbury certainly has story left to tell, as does Apple, Nike, Vogue, who else? Contrast that with brands that we perhaps know too much about, like Microsoft or McDonalds. Those are easy targets though, who else is out there that seems to have run out of things to say?

(This also has me thinking about luxury brands, how open would not beat closed in that situation, and how not knowing the story adds to their appeal…hmmm that’s another post entirely.)

Image courtesy of Mikey G Ottawa, with thanks to compfight.

My latest column is up over at Marketing Magazine’s site. I said a couple days ago I was thinking a lot about intent this week, call it a cosmic quest for something deeper than the window dressing. If I wasn’t in advertising, that would actually be a good thing.

There’s a lot of talk lately about brands and the voices they speak with. Be it through products or services, conversation is the new currency through which everyone wants to be measured. If what we’ve been saying for a while now is true, and our brands are to be imbued with human traits and personalities in order to inform the way they speak to their audience, then we need to look at intent…

The rest of the piece is over at Marketing Magazine.

We eagerly await our chance to ignore you

  • If you tell me you are an expert, I will not seek your advice, let alone believe you.
  • If you tell me your product will change my life I will not believe you.
  • If you tell me your service is the best thing since sliced bread, I will munch on my sandwich thinking “All in all I have it pretty good” and not budge an inch.

If however, a friend of mine tells me you’re an expert, have a product that will change my life, and a service that is the best thing since sliced bread, you will have my attention.

You are not what you say you are (even if you are). Nor is your product, offering or service. It is what others say it is via their experience interacting with you. The web unearths intent, and people strip away the bullshit.

Intent is a funny thing, I’m thinking a lot about that this week. Having said that, I intend to get over this cold, so I’m going to bed.

Image courtesy of Skate Everything, with thanks to compfight.

Some of you may be familiar with Where The Hell Is Matt? from a few years ago. If not, check it out, it will bring a smile to your face.

The latest video in the series is now online, and to quote Faris Yakob over at Talent Imitates, Genius Steals:

Hell yeah.

Smile.

Happy 4th of July to all the readers in the states. Have a great weekend.

Ok everyone, on 3. 1, 2, 3!

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Conversations happen around social objects.

3. Social objects are products or services that are remarkable.

4. Remarkable is not just something special, but something worth being remarked about.

Ok, with this in mind, last night as my house mate and I stalked people on Facebook, my shiny, tiny god was in my room and having been for a run I was feeling very lazy, so I grabbed her obelisk of a laptop and logged in.

As soon as the page loaded I was greeted with the below screen – and apologies to anyone whose privacy has been invaded, particularly those who now are forced to acknowledge they know me in real life – advising me the browser I was using was IE 6 and my Facebook experience may be compromised by this fact.

Browser help in Facebook

Now, I don’t actually log in to Facebook all that often these days, it has worn a tad thin for me. In this though I thought there was a great point to be made about the things you can and should do for the people who use your services or products. It is so easy for Facebook to know what browser I’m using and to suggest upgrades or alternatives (for the record, I use Firefox on my own machine). WHat are the other ways service just happens because people no longer need to ask, they just do?

– The cafe across the road knows I only ever drink long blacks, so they just make them, they don’t ask

My favourite wine bar knows I don’t drink sweet wines, so they don’t suggest them when I go in

My favourite record store knows the music I like, but they also know enough to suggest things outside my radar

Those three examples rely on a human remembering and caring enough to act. So if you’re in a service industry and there are things you can automate, letting the technology take care of the service so you can do the things requiring a human, what is stopping you? Oh, I just realised I left one of the most important things off my list at the top:

5. Good customer service is the most remarkable thing you can offer.

Note: This is a continuation of yesterday’s thoughts.

Also note: not The Dip.

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

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

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

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

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

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

Image courtesy of maubrowncow, with thanks to compfight.

(This is a train of thought that started last week, not sure where we’re headed yet…)

Dip ahead...I used to make video games, and one of the bug-bears of that industry is the rampant software piracy on PC. Thousands of development hours get spent creating more and more complex forms of software encryption, only to have them broken days if not hours after the games become available. It is a losing strategy as you are always pitting a handful of developers in a single room against a worldwide army whose only interest is breaking your encryption as fast as possible.

In the case of PC-gaming, many developers are moving to fixed hardware like the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and the Wii. They don’t solve the piracy problem, but they do significantly raise the barrier to entry. The issue of piracy though is a vexing one for software development, I have generally found (and I think most industry folk would agree, whether or not they admit it) there is as much piracy going on within the industry as there is outside it. When developers are as guilty of the crime as the guy on the street, you have to start wondering whose behaviour you’re trying to curb: someone else’s or your own?

Image courtesy of Tod Rydquist, with thanks to compfight.

Barrier to entryLong-time listeners-first time callers would be aware I was included in a top 50 list of marketing blogs in Australia recently, put together by Adspace-Pioneers and Marketing Magazine (#17, thanks very much). Eschewing “It’s an honour just to be nominated” dribble, it was a great chance to check out some of the other writers and marketers that exist in this space. There’s a tremendous amount of value out there and it’s well worth everyone’s time to take a look at the other sites comprising the list.

One key aspect which had been over-looked on a lot of these sites though was the choice of technology employed. There are three main blog platforms – WordPress (which is what this site is), TypePad and Blogger, all of which have their own pros and cons, but perform the same base functions.

Contrast this with Vox, a site I hadn’t heard of before until I visited Lexy Klain’s blog (#29 on the list). Lexy does a good job of providing thought-provoking content, I actually went quite far back into her archives to get a sense of her thought process. Satisfied, I went to comment on a post, and to congratulate her on making the list, and that is when the fun stopped.

Vox requires you to register if you wish to comment, something I abhor. Having spent yesterday afternoon at the Melbourne PubCamp event being bored to tears by folk who do not yet understand for some God-forsaken reason that open beats closed, I was surprised to see a blog site pursuing this tack.

By choosing this platform, Lexy opts out of a raft of conversation provided by comments. Fred Wilson often says the comments on his site far outweigh the value created in his blog posts. This is a participatory medium, and we need to make the barriers to entry for everyone as low as possible.

Lex, five stars for the wealth of thought you’re providing, but I can get it elsewhere. And if I can’t interact or am put off by the barriers placed in front of me, I won’t return. Those who haven’t read it should brush up on Forrester’s POST methodology for more on this.

Image courtesy of moniker, with thanks to compfight.

This is a brief sojourn from an otherwise blog-free weekend. I have both The Age and The Australian here, plenty of coffee, but all the stuff I want to read is online. Umair Haque’s proposal for new forms of media, Mark Earl’s look at EMI and how the record business is just gambling, even the five months of Penny Arcade I have sitting in my reader. But I’m sick of staring at a screen, hunched over and negotiating with a format that doesn’t allow me to lie horizontal on a Saturday when I’ve sat upright and alert for 60 hours during the week.

Yes I know there are bigger problems in the world, but I’m talking about the wealth of information that is available and making it easier to consume, something that benefits everyone. That can be a better written article, but it can just as easily be a more manageable medium.

Image courtesy of aloshbennet, with thanks to compfight.

This hilarious short comes courtesy of Slate. The race for the Democratic nomination in less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

With thanks to the recently discovered and completely brilliant Now In Colour.

Happy weekend everyone

P.S. Yes we can.