Thursday, December 21, 2006

. . . y los mejores deseos para un prospero año nuevo.
(Spell with flickr)
. . . and then when it does work, it becomes a brand.

An interesting post from Russell Davies a few weeks back got me thinking about the point when technology becomes a brand that is accepted as part of the consumer culture.
VOIP was just VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) until Skype came along. Video uploading, storage and free access is now defined by YouTube . MP3 is iPod. NASA satellite images are now a part of people´s lives thanks to Google Earth . B2C e-commerce, combined with the expanding broad band penetration, is now mainstream online shopping at C2C is eBay.
There are still wide areas where branded efforts are really just products and services based on technology platforms: Podigy Infinitum is just wide band from Telmex, an Internet Access Provider. Prodigy might be "available to paid subscibers" at some places, but free Internet access at Starbucks is part of the open wi-fi (third space) consumer culture.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Phones are the new cars

Good article in the Economist this week. Undoubtedly good news for mobile phones, but probably just more bad news for car makers.
Driving home tonight, I was listening to a PR guy from one of the Detroit brands, on the radio, talking about his "exciting new model line up" for 2007, the "exact specifications and pricing for which has yet to be decided" but he was sure that "demanding customers would be able to satisfy their every need and project their personalities through the brand" (Literal translation from Spanish). Most of the time you could tell he was just reading stuff off the model spec sheets. Groan, groan. I could not help thinking that Motorola would have done better. Marketing and PR people really should be careful before they go on the radio, or even before they let them out of the office.

The 20% that "get it"

We know that only about 2 out of ten of the brand owners (clients) and agencies (all types) that we talk to are going to be interested in the sort of planning and research stuff we do for brands. So it´s always nice when you meet with a client that . . . "gets it".
Last week, it was nice to spend some time with the
guys at Lab, a marketing communications vers 2.0, agency (that´s their logo with the mouse). The type of agency we really like to work with. After looking at the brand brief and communications strategy, we went to Chapter 1 of John Grant´s Brand Innovation Manifesto and talked about the "challenges to the old model of branding". This really changed the dialogue for brand building strategies and the type of research required to navigate the brand. Thanks Lab!

So it really might be better to stay with Chapter 1 until the debate warms up.
Here´s a bad pic of what the debate looks like.
The good news is that the Lab guys went straight to Amazon to order the BIM book.
My target for next year is to witness the purchase of 20 copies of BIM. Notice I did not say "sell". We don´t do that on this blog ;-)
Christmas starts right here. . . .

What can I say. I could bang on about the aroma, body and character etc. Just put me down for all of the above and add that it really is very good.

Look skeptical and ask them for a sample and they might give you a freebie. Their Christmas Mint Mocha is not bad either.
End of plug.

This was posted by Russell Davies back in the summer during the World Cup.
He saw Coke (Share the passion!) as intrusive Urban Spam and Pepsi (Like some music?) as involving interesting and not
Urban Spam "the difference between offering to share with someone and imposing yourself on someone".

It's also a great example of old brand thinking (message repetition, impact, tone of voice, passive audiences) versus new brand thinking (an experience to share and pass on, engagement, involvement, life style - cultural context: iPod).


Bob Dylan > John Grant

Reading John Grant's latest book - The Brand Innovation Manifesto a few months back, I found it full of brilliant thinking and great ideas for building brands, but just a bit intimidating. "How to Build Brands, Redefine Markets & Defy Conventions" sounds great. But how do you translate that into the generally dysfunctional, category myopic, "image is everything" brand culture that tends to be the norm in Mexico?

Well a few weeks on and I have now read BIM a few more times and before leaping into John's Tarot cards, molecules and new brand theory it seems there is some hard patient work to be done on the first chapter of BIM: "Challenges to the old model of branding," which are:
  • Brand Image > > > Brand Innovation
  • Messages > > > > > > Involvement
  • Static > > > > > > > > Dynamic
  • Promising > > > > > > Delivering
  • Look and feel > > > > Experience
  • Fantasy > > > > > > > Authenticity
  • Advertising> > > > > > Culture
  • Audience > > > > > > Community
  • Consistency > > > > > Coherence
  • Image > > > > > > > > Currency
  • Passive > > > > > > > Interactive
Quite a few brands I have been looking at in the last few weeks appear to have made a start (probably unknowingly) on new brand thinking. Their briefs talk about being "more interactive," "generating involvement" and how they want to "deliver an authentic experience."
But these only appear in the brand introduction, brand background or business objectives, not in the brand strategy part of the brief. Then they revert to "message" and "image" and all the old model thinking.

". . . . will soon shake your windows and rattle your doors
for the times they are a changin" Bob Dylan

Hmmmm. Looks like it's time to get out there and shake some windows and rattle some doors.

Marcas dominantes

Interesante - Extracto del Sentido Común de hoy.

".........Sin embargo, esa percepción inicial ha dado un giro con el nombramiento que hicieron Calderón y Téllez de Del Villar.“El mensaje detrás de este nombramiento en la secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes es claro. Calderón no confrontará al T-3 (Telmex, Televisa, TV Azteca) por ahora, pero estas empresas muy probablemente también dejen ya de beneficiarse del muy favorable trato regulatorio que recibieron durante la administración del [ex-presidente Vicente] Fox”, escribió Pamela Starr, analista política de Eurasia Group, una empresa consultora internacional, en un reporte sobre el nombramiento...........

Así, para muchos el gobierno debería hacer todo lo posible para permitir mayor competencia en la industria de las telecomunicaciones, ya que de lo contrario, como hasta ahora ha ocurrido, unas cuantas empresas, o unos cuantos inversionistas, obtienen fuertes ganancias por la ausencia de un mayor número de competidores.

Para muchos analistas, Carlos Slim, independientemente de su talento para los negocios, ha logrado amasar una fortuna de más de 46,000 millones de dólares, o cerca de 5% del producto interno bruto, gracias a que por décadas cobró precios exorbitantes a todos los mexicanos por el uso del teléfono".

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Brand Truths and Insights - growing weaker?

Brand truths, the moment of truth in the brand experience, seem to be becoming vulnerable to overuse and superficial application. In other words the areas of BS and Noise mentioned in the previous post.

"Insight" might have already got there. Insights that merely state the obvious rarely carry any knowledge or actionable information. However, without "Insight" we can rarely bring information to life. Good Insights always have a sort of "Wow, I never thought of it quite like that before" element about them that can trigger a "what if" thought to a big idea (Think: Priceless - Master Card). Insight is an integral part of the brand building process and too important to just be discarded like yesterdays worn out buzzword. But it has to earn its place, be it through more rigorous thinking, disciplined thinking, lateral thinking, outside-in thinking, or out-of-the-box thinking, but it has to be better thinking.

Sorry, I couldn' t find a decent link for this.

Monday, December 4, 2006

From Bullshit to Wisdom: Dealing with Information Overload

Generally we classify information into three basic levels: data, information and knowledge.

In a recent article in Admap, Omar Mahmoud proposes a more detailed hierarchy of eight classifications, based on the subjective criteria of usefulness. The following is a summary of Omar´s article I have saved in my "keeper" file on basic craft skills for planning - under the 4 INs (Information, Interpretation, Insight and Inspiration). Here then are Omar´s 8:

  1. Bullshit - consists of statements that maybe true but are too general and positive to be responded to. If a statement´s opposite doesn´t make sense that statement isn´t very helpful. "We make good quality products" is not an enlightening statement given the opposite of "We make poor quality products."
    Bullshit often results from the repetitive out-of-context use of terms that once had a meaning. Top of Omar´s list are words such as strategy, paradigms, holistic, vision, harmony, win-win, and statements such as "it´s a journey".
  2. Noise - is the opposite of data. Data can be organized and turned into information, then knowledge. Noise is harmful and acts as a fog preventing us from seeing the more relevant data. The information displayed on in-flight screens is a good example: the outside temerature is noise and not very useful. However, a change in the flight arrival time allows us to plan ahead and take decisions. In market research data from non-valid questions and techniques are mostly noise. Out of context pieces of data, such as the percentage of of decisions made in or out of store, are special kinds of noise.
  3. Data - are raw facts that need refinement before we can put them to good use.Too much published data contains numbers that only experts can make sense of.
  4. Information - is organized data. The size of a market based on the population, adjusted by income or purchasing power, is information. Information is the bridge between data and knowledge.
  5. Knowledge - is learning you can act on, sooner or later. A market analysis that addresses a specific action orientated question is knowledge.
  6. Laws - are simplified generalizations from accumulated knowledge that apply in many situations. The 80/20 rule is a simple, but highly versatile law. Laws are useful when their rationale and applicability is well understood.
  7. Mental Models - are conceptual tools that combine several rules into a useful construct that allows us to structure existing knowledge. Maslow´s hierarchy of needs is a useful model. Models have the additional benefit of highlighting what we don´t know as much as what we do. Models are rarely 100% accurate, but they provide a framework for organizing and advancing knowledge.
  8. Wisdom - is the ability to internalize contrarian laws and know which ones to use under which circumstances. Only 1% of what we know is wisdom.
Thanks Omar.

So the challenge is: to dismiss the bullshit and noise in the system, to have the insight to internalize the knowledge, models and frameworks we have available and then to have the wisdom to know the difference. Because probably 90% of the information we are presented with is going to be bullshit or noise and that is a lot worse than the basic law of content: 10% is great; 20% is OK and 70% is irrelevant rubbish.