Archive | whitepapers RSS feed for this section

ECommerce, Social commerce and multichannel innovations

15 Jul

A presentation looking at a decade (& more) of eCommerce growth, the fragmentation of user journeys into a multi-channel experience and the new world and innovations of Social Commerce.


2010 Digital Trends, Ideas and Technologies (Part 1)

5 Jan

Here is Part 1 (of 2, maybe 2 and a half) of our 2010 Digital Trends, Ideas and Technologies presentation that I finished off over Christmas. It’s based around 4 Themes, which are each broken into 2 areas of focus/exploration:

It is in Beta (or that’s my excuse for a couple of gaps) and draws on a lot of ideas from some interesting people who make the strategy and digital creative world a good place . I’ll be posting the full list of sources here but in the meantime any feedback, ideas or input is gratefully accepted.


Update: The presentation has now been voted onto the homepage and then chosen as a Top Presentation of the Day of and picked for the homepage of Thank you very much.

Social Media monitoring and the spectrum of online relationships

1 Oct

I got talking to the COI the other day about online PR, Word of Mouth and Social Media and the conversation turned to the problems of ROI and monitoring.

I’ve sat in too many Social Media presentations that promise a bit about ROI at the end but instead of a practical approach just mention “the power of conversations”, list a few free tools and then mention one of the larger monitoring services.

Unfortunately despite people intuitively knowing that the social and consumer-centric business approach is the future for marketing and communications, this won’t convince a CFO or the global board. They like models and numbers.

So off the back of this I took an earlier post based on some of Mike Arauz’s thinking and started to try and categorise the numerous, different monitoring techniques out there to make comparing like with like more possible.

Anyway here goes…

An approach to Social Media Monitoring and measurement based on the spectrum of online relationships

Increasingly the value of an idea is not in its initial direct exposure, blog mention or spot/insertion in a publication, but in the value or social currency it provides to the audience. This social oxygen value enables the idea to spread socially.

Social Media campaigns are uniquely measurable but not all measures are equal and indicate true effectiveness. Different social media actions or online conversations have different values and influences upon consumer behaviour.

Multiple metrics, from number of followers and fans, to positive or negative sentiment, to reposts and influencer mentions, can be difficult to distinguish from one another. In effect we can become trapped in a state of analysis paralysis where there is too much social media data and too little understanding.

An agreed industry standard is needed but, until a consensus arises, we have developed a structure to categorise the value of different monitoring tools/metrics and start building an measurement and tracking model.

Fig. 1

fig. 1 – Spectrum of Online Relationships

By classifying social media conversations into three categories – Exposure, Engagement, Collaboration – based on the Spectrum of Online Relationships that underpin them (fig 1), we can group their associated metrics and monitoring approaches (fig 2). Then by examining the overall performance of the activity in each category we can begin to establish the effectiveness and conversion rate of social media campaigns and ongoing activity.

The idea is to simplify all the different effectiveness measures out there so comparisons/trends can be made and then these can then used alongside true Social ROI calculations.

Fig. 2 - Social Media ROI Metrics and Measurement Techniques

fig. 2 - Social Media Monitoring, Metrics and measurement tools by category

Categorising social media activity this way means it is possible to take a holistic approach and use aggregates of the different monitoring techniques – and metrics that will vary according to the nature of every campaign and its platform type – to compare the performance between each category and hence work out the relative success of the social media activity. The ultimate goal of this approach is to be able to compare the effectiveness of different social media campaigns when comparing like with like is often difficult.

Using this structure means that the results of the Exposure, Engagement and Collaboration categories can be compared to identify performance and trends.

I’ve arrange an example of this way of thinking as an equation (which is sure to attract the wrath of Anna O’Brien who rightly points out the falseness of the different social media “ROI metrics” and silly equations out there) but it is not meant to be a magic bullet or mathematically sound – it is a visual way of structuring thinking about the principles at play.

For example, one measure of a social media campaign’s momentum – Social Media Traction – would be to compare the ratio of Engagement performance to Exposure performance (Fig 3) where a +1 would indicate success and social media momentum as people moved from being merely exposed to a campaign to becoming more engaged.

Any measure/inputs of Exposure or Engagement (or even Collaboration) would differ for each campaign and organisation – as I said earlier the idea is to simplify the different effectiveness measures and monitoring techniques so comparisons can be made and trends identified.

fig. 3 – A way of thinking about a campaign’s traction by comparing performance in the Exposure and Engagement categories

fig. 3 – A way of thinking about a campaign’s traction by comparing performance in the Exposure and Engagement categories

Equally using this approach to define Social Media Conversion and Advocacy would require a focus on activity and metrics within the Collaboration category. Indeed, the ratio between Engagement performance and Collaboration performance could be seen as being an indicator of people moving from discovering, sharing and “playing” with content to acting upon it – whether making it their own passion or hopefully even changing purchasing behaviour.

Ultimately this proposed approach to Social Media monitoring/measurement will need to be linked back to ROI. Can we prove whether good results in either category – or a good Social Media Traction or  Social Media Conversion and Advocacy score – can relate to a lower Cost per Acquisition or an increase sales?

This will require someone much better at maths than me but I believe that some agreed structure and model is vital to proving the long term value of social media and the real web to the board and CFO.

What is Brand Reality Creative? (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

The idea of what I call Brand Reality Creative – for want of a better term and I’m sure there is one – began in a whitepaper I wrote last summer as part of a series of digital workshops we were running with clients and other industry people.

Brand Reality Creative was initially a reaction to the corruption of the concept of Brand Utility that first rose to prominence in 2006; a concept that, despite what was promised by the oft repeated Nike+ story, was drowned in a tide of spam widgets.

Its starting point was in a few quotes I scribbled in my notebook copied out below:

  • “There is no market for messages.” David Searls
  • “People won’t buy brands as entertainment, they want products that entertain. Brands will need to be something people connect with and will want to engage with.” Flo Heiss
  • “It’s translating…intangible propositions into the result of something more basic and useful for society [rather than] just advertising through a medium the individual can use to make it less interrupting” Bram De Maesschalck

But Brand Reality Creative grew to be inspired by the notion of creative work that is “good enough to share“, that usefully reflects what people are doing using digitally enabled and real world channels.

Brand Reality Creative is based on the belief that useful, usable and delightful interaction engages the crowd and helps them connect, either functionally or for the purpose of self- actualisation across both real and digital spaces. It is a useful embodiment of the brand that affects the real world, not a metaphor or a distraction. It is not a tool with a logo.  It is not dry. It respects the need for stories.


It’s about:

  • Creating frameworks that people can use to make their own magic
  • Balancing “doing stuff for the brand (telling people)” with “doing stuff for people (achieving a goal)”
  • Acknowledging that not all brands need to be useful, some can just entertain – it’s not just utility
  • Accepting that really practical stuff can be dry
  • Creating entertainment that isn’t totally passive
  • Accepting real people’s relationship to the marketing web
  • Making work that is good enough to share

Next >> Examples of Brand Reality Creative

This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.

Good enough to share: designing creative with nodal points in mind (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

Often we have seen brands approach the internet like hedge-funds playing the stock market. So many strategies are double plays that aim to have their cake and eat it, to win no matter what the outcome but have a side order of “social” to round out the meal or case study. The result is expensive and doesn’t reflect the reality of the net.

The internet lets the crowd raise-up the things it likes with links and tags and re-posts, and damn the things it doesn’t like with a pointed lack of attention. Old passive message, big idea, objective correlative creative with a big call to action, and series of key frame proof points doesn’t cut it anymore. There is too much noise: now things have to be good enough to share.

But just because something is good enough to share and inherently interesting doesn’t mean it will catch on and spread through the network. The work that is interesting must be structured for the network, as demonstrated by SharedEgg. It must allow the crowd to create nodal points within their part of the network. It must also contain an idea that can be reprocessed and played with, passed on and owned.

This gives us two key challenges, one commercial and one sociological: (1) how do we make things that are good enough to share, and good enough to create or contribute to nodal points; and (2) how do we use creative to help shape the network so that the nodal points it throws up in the future are useful and “the best for society”? I believe that Brand Reality Creative is one answer.

Next >> What is Brand Reality Creative?



A Nodal point is a (potentially distributed) collection of content, conversations and links that spread a meme/concept and cause the ideas and journeys around it to be reshaped and dragged just like a planet’s mass influences the passage of time around it. It is a key point in the narrative of the net.



This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.

What are real people doing in the digital world? (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

Real people’s identities are currently scattered across services, sites and functions on the internet. As new tools, trends and fads have developed, so have the multitude of places where elements of our identity can be accessed. We have become the comments we have made, the transactions we have completed, and the user accounts we have collected or even forgotten that we had. As UnHub, a consumer service inspired by the Skittles campaign, puts it: You are Everywhere.

This fragmented reality does not mean we should all boldly delete our brand- or comms-led websites and march off to join the latest platform: a Facebook presence does not equal “getting it”.

Lets face it, marketers love Facebook. People just use it.facebook_slides11

Social Networking is invisible as a concept. It is a pervasive tool. Just like there is no “new media” anymore, Social Networking or “Earned Media” shouldn’t be seen as a distinct category. It is just interactive but it is people’s space. The recent redesign of Facebook alone proves that people feel they own it and that things in their space should not be interfered with.

What this fragmentation means is that we need to increasingly focus our thinking on how real people are connected – with each other and their own, different online identities – and what they are doing. In fact we need to consider not just pure digital connections but connections via social objects that are increasingly digitally enabled. This is especially true of younger people. They are more connected than any of us and point a way to how future behaviour will change for the majority/mainstream.

Young people’s behaviour in a digitally enabled world is proof of the outmoded nature of the old “six degrees of separation” cliché. One of the best recent illustrations of the complex, non-linear connectivity of real people is the SharedEgg data visualisation.

“SharedEgg is a diagram of subcultures based on data collected from the people who make up those cultures. People categorize themselves using their objects and through their categorization are linked to the other people participating in the project. What has resulted is a deeply complex image showing social trends and unknown bonds between people through those trends.”


While SharedEgg has revealed an ever increasing number of “unknown bonds” created by shared activities, points of reference, trends and communication tools, two questions remain: (1) what are people doing to create these bonds; and (2) how can we as creative communicators get involved when these bonds are stronger and more complex that any linear traditional campaign?

The Digital Youth Project (University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley) provides a good insight to the “What are they doing” question.

“The digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression. These activities have captured teens’ attention because they provide avenues for extending social worlds, self-directed learning, and independence.”

Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project

The project reveals a Maslow hierarchy of needs for the digital age.


At its most basic the internet is being used to uplift mood and give people something (and a somehow) to talk about. It is about social oxygen. However, as we get higher up the hierarchy the level of engagement and the level of “digital proficiency” increases. People start making themselves and things.

What can we, as marketers and creatives, do in response to this reality?

Traditionally there are two worlds of thought about interactive creative, two almost polarized camps: those who believe that the answers are Communication & Content, and those who believe the answers are Utility & Context.


But the reality is not black or white, it falls between the two camps. The reality is work that aims to be “good enough to share“.

Next >> Good enough to share: designing creative with nodal points in mind

This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.

The changing nature of interactive creative (2009 Trends)

26 Mar

One response to 2009’s interactive creative trends has been the creative approach we’ve been calling Brand Reality Creative. 

The approach aims to develop creative that is intrinsically structured to reflect people’s true relationship with interactive, but that doesn’t lose sight of the need to affect the real world. It aims to combine work that works hard with work that tells a more interesting and inspirational story.

But before we can jump ahead and answer the questions “what is Brand Reality Creative” and “why do we need to change the way we approach interactive work“, I think it is important to start by looking at what has been happening with a lot of existing interactive marketing and what are real people are actually doing? The two are often very different.

Firstly, what are a lot of brand organisations currently doing?

Whenever you create an online presence it becomes part of the network almost immediately. This has often led to creative work that takes the connections between media – between the pots of content and the ways in which they are served-up and linked – for granted. It leads to campaigns being shaped by one particular interpretation of the network: the marketing web interpretation that believes in an essentially hub-and-spoke structure to interactive strategy.

The Marketing web

The Marketing web

The marketing web places communication activities in a position where they drive in a more or less linear way to concentric circles of organisational focused content/technologies. This traditional, legacy model places social media and mobile technologies in a satellite orbit. Their role is essentially one of traffic driving to the core business function despite their two way potential. The model is dependent on compelling persuasion pathways, a high frequency of message exposure and repeated calls to action.

The problem is people are on the outside and the brand is in the middle. While it is an improvement on what was happening before (the old e-mail – microsite – send to a friend routine) it is still very website-centric.

Whenever I sit in a client meeting about a potential new website brief I always start out by giving our account handlers the jitters by saying to the client, “you don’t need a website.” When the account handler has been revived, or restrained from killing me, I finish saying, “you don’t need a website, you need a platform to share things with people. A website might just be part of it.” Just as we need “less advertising, more entertaining applications” maybe we should also declare “fewer websites, more interactive platforms”? More and more it is becoming what is outside your site that is most important.

The ever-increasing use of “Search online for….” as a call to action on TV and press advertising is part of this less site-centric movement and it is a good sign. I’ve sat in quite a few online-user research groups where, as part of the very first task, we’ve watched people type the URL straight into Google rather than the browser – a fact backed-up by many a search term site analytics report. Indeed if you ask someone what the internet “looks like” then the first thing that pops into their mind is a white page with a multi-coloured logo.

Unfortunately at the moment the “Search online for…” CTA is being used predominantly as a replacement for all the clever marketing URLs that are no longer available.

We need to move beyond shifting campaign journeys to the Google sponsored-ads. We need to target appearing in multiple locations with multiple functions within the natural search listings and beyond – whether this means websites, or application modules, conversation channels or even coverage of physical installations. All of these elements need self-contained, responsive, real-time content that is useful for where we are and what we are doing.

In a similar way to journalism accepting that “the article is not the story” so we have to accept that the website may not be the most effective communication tool – it might not even be the right place to have the necessary conversation. In a world of re-posts and video responses it is the story and context of the communication that is more important for fuelling any conversation. The conversation will not be centralised.

“When thinking about brands and media… we’ll need to make sure that we don’t confuse the article (the advertising) from [sic] the story (the context, the interconnected ecosystem of nodes that “bubble up” to a something much bigger).”

Dino Demopoulos, Chroma

One big brand that has taken a first step with this distributed approach has been Skittles.

SkittlesInterweb the rainbow” campaign is the great hype story of recent months and has been successful in creating noise, but not all of it is good – not that a single, on message, monologic approach to the internet could ever exist. However, the Skittles approach is a great example of the mechanic exceeding the message.

Skittles took an idea that had been previously implemented effectively by the digital agency Modernista! and “deleted their website” by replacing with an overlay unit that sat over Skittles related content on other “real web” websites. It created a filter on a distributed internet experience across Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook so people could see the brand “through the eyes of the web”. The insight was quite sound, after all does an FMCG brand really need a website with yet another “About us” section?



Unfortunately the campaign implementation fell down. Skittles was marred by inexcusable usability issues – issues addressed previously in Modernista’s approach – and a blunt legal department-imposed age-checker that turned the experience into that of a site that happened to pull other sites into itself.  But beyond this what let it down was the fact that it was actually a great mechanic rather than a conversation. Skittles provoked a lot of conversation but had nothing to say. There was nothing beyond the brand name. There was nothing to channel the crowd’s interest. The content stimulus was weak, and so it was filled and abused by people who like to swear in public.

However, the campaign’s relative merits are still being debated online thus adding to its success in generating more attention than a traditional microsite-focused campaign could do on a similar budget. In effect, it made us look, now what?

Despite these failings Skittles can still be seen as an important step forward by a big FMCG brand in its use of interactive marketing. Skittles recognised that there is an internet beyond the “marketing web”, where real people exist outside of brand control. There are platforms being used by real people that are “their territory” and they are far better than any “walled garden” faux-social network that most brands could afford to build.

Distributed campaigns like Skittles offer an effective and more interesting future for interactive marketing – campaigns that reflect what people are doing in the real world and the digital world.

Next >> What are real people doing in the digital world?

Brand Reality Creative – Breaking away from the objective correlative in advertising and interactive.

14 Oct

Traditional advertising and marketing communications are frequently based on the concept of the objective correlative4 – where an object or person (signifier) represents a value or function that is transferred to the product or service (signified). The link between the product/service and the signifier does not have to be a literal or strong one but the “objective correlative, with its own logic that bonds so well with subjective work [makes] the connections seem plausible, even self-evident”5. Because the Crowd’s connection with brands is inherently weak we need creative actually to become the connection. As David Searls once said, “There is no market for messages.” This is Brand Reality Creative, where useful, usable and delightful interaction engages the Crowd and helps them connect, either functionally or for the purpose of self-actualisation across both real and digital spaces.

Brand Reality Creative has the value exchange firmly in the favour of the user. When applied to online advertising it should lead to semantic windows on personally relevant content and live, real events and features. Interactive creative is not inherently interesting because it is digital, it is interesting because it can provide a way for real people to connect and do things together – social networking was just the village pump on a global scale where we used social media and applications to present aspects of our real or imagined personalities. Reality and content will be sought after and valued by Crowds, and online advertising needs to evolve to account for this or else it will be filtered out and switched off. It needs to be valuable in itself and get people closer to content and reality.

Brand Reality Creative ties in with the post-credit crunch desire or need for tangible value over slick expensive fictions. Traditional object correlative advertising masking underperforming or non-useful products/services is sub-prime. Brand Reality Creative’s goal is to do something useful, helpful and valuable – to show not tell and embody the brand in the process.

“People won’t buy brands as entertainment, they want products that entertain. Brands will need to be something people connect with and will want to engage with”6, something that does something for them rather than interrupts them. It does not have to rely on a blatant do X and get Y message. It can rely upon people’s natural curiosity.’s T-Shirt Headlines Project used small T-Shirt icons next to headlines to draw peoples’ attention to their improved video offer. Clicking on the icon would lead them to a custom t-shirt shop where they could purchase a t-shirt with the headline on it. The shirts were emblazoned with the “I just saw it on” tagline, along with the date and time of the headline. People could choose shirts with headlines they liked, were appalled about, found surreal, or just whimsical by actually interacting with the videos. It also spread the wider word as people wore the shirts, gifted them to their friends or broadcasted their purchase on their Facebook News Feed.

Brand Reality Creative like this is organic not viral, it has more usage loops and can be used by people for self-representation. It nurtures and incentivises invites and it cares about the retention rate rather than chasing installs through brute force. It is not the archetypal one hit widget – the type that cluttered up your old Facebook Profile page, the Viral App that is essentially spam. However, it is not just about Brand Utility.

The theory of Brand Utility arose in 2006 from the desire of agencies like Barbarian Group and Anomaly for the valuable communities, sites and experiences they create for clients to live beyond the average three month marketing campaign’s lifecycle. Soon it became the belief that brands should be “genuinely useful to their customers, employees, suppliers and the people they touch”7. Since then it has become a cliché to mention brand utility and Nikeplus in the same breath. Much comment has been made about this technological partnership between Nike and Apple since its revolutionary debut. The great combination of a useful training tool with sharing personal performance and comparing runs embodies Crowd focused brand utility. Yet it is Nikeplus’ recent evolution to form the heart of the Human Race 10k that transforms the campaign to one of Brand Reality Creative. Effectively “it’s translating…intangible propositions into the result of something more basic and useful for society [rather than] just advertising through a medium the individual can use to make it less interrupting”8. The creative is a useful embodiment of the brand that affects the real world, not a metaphor or a distraction. It is not a tool with a logo either.

In its ultimate form Brand Reality Creative needs to offer an experience you can’t get anywhere else. People will pay for things that they see as scarce, not things – digital versions – that they see as intangible and abundant. The digital element has to do more or be used for more. This has been the dilemma facing the music, game and film industries, indeed anyone involved in the creation of the new digital currency – content. The music industry, of all the content creation industries, has reacted to recent advances in the connectivity of Crowds as a threat rather than an opportunity. For every claimed “MyTube/YouSpace” basement success story, the major labels have seem to have ten lawyers with a handful of writs. Instead, it has been left to music’s actual practitioners, grass-roots movements and technology firms like Apple to forge the new business models for the Cloud and Crowd enabled world.

In October 2007 the band Radiohead shocked the music industry almost as much as the birth of Napster when their self-released album In Rainbows was sold online for only as much as people were willing to pay for it. Their digital honesty box confronted one of the downsides of the Crowd – intellectual property theft over file-sharing and peer-to-peer networks – while also generating a huge volume of PR and media attention. The digital version was effectively free but the real, enhanced physical boxed set retailed for £40. The experiment only lasted for 3 months and sales allegedly averaged £2 confirming that consumers, while valuing content, were not prepared to pay the old prices for purely digital copies. When something is “free” it is hard to go back to paying – ironically this situation is probably the ultimate end result of the industry’s own debasing of its currency via years of cover-mounts and newspaper giveaways.

Licensing/brand association, a future content business model

Licensing/brand association, a future content business model

Radiohead’s experiment altered the industry so much that nine months later Prince conducted the physical release of his new album free through the Daily Mail. What Radiohead started, Prince took to the next level by ushering in a new era of business models based on brand association, product placement and live experiences; an era of brands supplying tangible access to content in return for Crowd engagement.

However, the new model does not mean that brands have to give the Crowd everything and expect nothing in return. Brands can use the Crowd creatively.

Once again one of the best example of using the Crowd to generate content comes from the Radiohead stable. After the initial PR success of the In Rainbows launch came the second phase of the campaign: promoting individual singles. Because the band was not signed to a major label they could not rely upon the traditional methods of single promotion – methods similar to those employed by the average fmcg launch – repetitive, expensive exposure of the message/music until it becomes engraved in the audience’s mind and they cave in and buy. Instead, they launched an remix competition – Nude ReMix. While net remix competitions are not new, indeed through projects like Looplabs or even technical mashups they are actually an ingrained part of internet culture, Nude ReMix was smarter. It was done where the audience was – on iTunes and on their Facebook pages – so it felt open and natural. It didn’t exist solely as a self-contained, controlled, exclusive product driven website where everything was approved by the brand team and compliance. The useful parts of the track (stems) were sold – SOLD – for self-assembly on iTunes and people could use their Facebook pages to distribute their work and gain votes.

House of Cards motion capture data visualisation

House of Cards motion capture data visualisation

The campaign to promote the next single House of Cards went even further into this world of open-sourced Crowd creativity when instead of releasing a video the band released the motion capture data of a performance. The data was then turned into beautiful visualisations – Crowd created music videos – using open-source techniques and languages like Processing.

At the end of these campaigns the Crowd had created experiences that could never have been created by a traditional marketing campaign. They had generated networked exposure9 through creative interactions that gave value to digital versions of the real product.

James Houston’s Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any)

James Houston’s Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any)

The Crowd based Brand Reality Creative approach also allows effects to last longer and achieve more long-term reach than the “average three month marketing campaign”. After the Nude ReMix campaign had officially ended its influence re-emerged in the form of James Houston’s Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any). This film of a real installation transformed the act of remixing into an art piece that married analogue and digital technologies and took the internet by storm. His reprocessed Crowd piece actually transcended the original and truly embodied the Reader Response Theory that brands are ultimately made by people. Essentially Product + Story + Audience +Context = Content10, or in this case art, proving that “content is the new democracy and we the people, are ensuring that our voices are heard”11.

Despite the obvious quality and success of these examples of Crowd reprocessed creativity it is important to recognize that they are still quite “niche”. The traffic, interactions and attention generated were high but the Crowd communities were still relatively specialised. How do we break away from highly technical/creative audiences and take a broadcast approach to Crowd creation and Brand Reality Creative?

In fact this has already been happening. While the Nikeplus campaign mentioned previously may embody Brand Utility, 2005’s NikeID campaign, where interactively customising the product became entertainment, truly embodies Crowd enabled Brand Reality Creative. As part of the campaign Nike launched an interactive billboard experience that let people use their phones to design a shoe on the Reuters sign in Times Square. Passersby could use their phones to interact with the 23-story billboard, customising and even directly purchasing their own Nike shoe. After designing a shoe on the screen, the user received a text message within seconds. That message contained mobile phone wallpaper showing their shoe along with a link to the NikeID site where they could buy it. People could also create and share their designs in online adverts and on the NikeID site itself. NikeID now forms a central part of the Nike’s overall strategy.

Brand Reality Creative is not limited to so-called “cool”, media or high-tech brands. A similar success story to the Radiohead or NikeID examples is the Lego Factory, an interactive campaign where people can digitally design their own custom creations, share them, discuss them and then order the parts and their own personalized packaging. Crowd based Brand Reality Creative like this, not constricted UGC upload your photo competitions, work on an open, simple mechanic (even/especially if the techniques required are quite specialist) and work with existing communities to drive involvement and the quality of entries. This in turn drives exposure and direct and indirect sales.

“…a sports shoe, a toy. Each has empowered a community of its consumers, and by connecting them together has itself benefited. But these aren’t ‘soft’ [brand] benefits. They’re driving revenue streams, repeat purchase and real engagement – consumer relationships whose strength is founded not on the transient moment of product need, but in the enduring nature of humans as social animals.” Andrew Walmsley, Superbrands.

The potential of Brand Reality Creative for the Cloud and Crowd enabled world is immense but we do need a word of warning before storming this “new utopia”. While it is said that there is wisdom in crowds, the Crowd can easily become a mob. There are already instances of bloggers stopping writing because of over-democracy, because of people hiding behind usernames to flame and indulge in petty arguments. The risk is that sometimes in a crowd no one can hear you scream because everyone is screaming. The Crowd is people – we all got the “brands need to be like people and marketing is now a conversation” memo – and people can be downright ugly. People do not always act with the purest intentions, and the market does not always self-regulate, the great fact you Googled in support of your argument can always turn out to be the fantasy of a teenager from Tipton, something the phenomenally successful Loose Change conspiracy theory film proved. Equally, if an online newspaper were to be generated solely out of most viewed stories it would be overflowing with kittens, sexual accidents and pictures of Britney with no underwear. The next big challenge is how to manage masses of information, how to attribute identity, and how to work out what is truth and what is propaganda – or worse the Big Lie?

The birth of the semantic web touched on at the beginning of this paper, and a new focus on developing filters and aggregators, means we can start addressing these risks of digital fatigue and noise. The issues of identity and authority in crowds are already reflected in projects like OpenID and the move from the freewheeling Wikipedia to Google’s editor influenced Knol. Marketers and communicators need to support and engage with this future if they are going to continue to have any influence.

Brand Reality Creative for the Cloud and Crowd world is just one technique that Brands can use to become a way for people to sort the wheat from the chaff. Ultimately, our job should be to make the Cloud and Crowd work for humanity rather than debase it.

Full PDF version of this whitepaper

4.The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is evoked.” T.S. Eliot, 1919
5.The bottle that isn’t there and the duck that can’t be heard: The subjective correlative in commercial messages” Michael Witoski, University of South Carolina
6. Flo Heiss, The way things go
7. Johnny Vulkan, Anomaly
8. Bram De Maesschalck – PSFK
9.Driven by internet and mobile communications, networks are turning into the major means of doing business… Simply put, networks will make the world go round. So controlling the networks of this world will soon count for more than controlling the capital.” Netocracy, by Jan Söderqvist & Alexander Bard
10. Ian Tait, Crackunit
11. Brian Solis

The Crowd – Cloud linked collaborative communities, creativity and tools

14 Oct

What does this mean for marketers? The answer is that if you free up and increase the places and ways you can access Digital creative and communications – if you enable the Cloud – you also free up the numbers of people who have access – you enable the Crowd.

How does design and creative have to evolve to meet the needs of marketing and communication in light of the Cloud and Crowd? The principles of the semantic web point the way. The goal of the semantic web is not to make people think more like computers (the old way of web design where the user was not always right) but to make technology think more like humans – with all the quirks that this implies.

Hierarchy of design approaches, influences and areas of investigation

Hierarchy of design approaches, influences and areas of investigation

Traditional Interaction Design and creativity tends to be rooted in the Physiological and Psychological, smaller scale areas of study. The future of creativity involves moving up the approach hierarchy to focus more on Anthropology and Sociology – to embracing and understanding the way that Crowds behave and connect and then catering accordingly.

This union of the Cloud and the Crowd is the new reality of digital.

The new reality of digital is people helping to shape products and services and then trialing them digitally. The new Internet is useful and real. It is people – not computers – talking to each other, sharing information, entertainment and functionality. It is using and enabling the power of the Crowd and getting them to manipulate and process brands in a useful, productive way.

The marketing motivation behind digital in the new real world is about ‘doing’, about active engagement, both now and in the future. It reflects the famous Lao Tse quote:

What I hear, I forget.
What I say, I remember.
What I do, I understand.

And it is the embodiment of Seymour Papert’s Learning Theory of Constructionism – the belief that people learn most effectively by doing things rather than sitting and listening – in this case applied to brand messages.

The bluring between the product, the social element, the interactive film, the website and the mobile application is already making the difference indistinguishable. As the Cloud grows people are interacting with all spaces. It is not new media any more, and people are coming together as Crowds. They are contributing, developing and sharing, and creative and services need to be responsive, personal, informative and fun. Future creative and marketing needs to reflect the open-source and democratic potential of the Cloud and Crowd.

“Now, people collaborate together to create software, releasing it back onto the web where it outperforms the ‘commercial’ competition. They share information about medical conditions, challenging the authority of the medical establishment. They co-operate to drive down fuel prices, publishing the cheapest price for your postcode. And they join forces to bring down brands who let them down, publishing videos of underperforming products.

The age of the Trilogue has arrived” Andrew Walmsley, Superbrands.

The Cloud is leading to a large range of connections within Crowds – from strong to weak. The weak connections include the direct connections with brands. The strong connections are with each other.

Online Crowds are brought together by common interests – by the niche (and not so niche) ideas and content that they can consume, manipulate and/or contribute. Ask what binds them and it is behaviours and attitudes not ages and incomes. These are the strong connections that technology – and the Cloud – has enabled.

The challenge is how do we make the weak connections stronger and how do we let them have a positive effect on the connected Crowd?

One possible answer is that in this world Brand creative needs to become Brand Reality Creative.

Continued…Brand Reality Creative – Breaking away from the objective correlative in advertising and interactive

The Semantic web – humanising information is more important than how you store it

14 Oct

“The semantic web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise and community boundaries” (W3C). It is a future where computers can understand the meaning of information as well as its format or type and can then serve it accordingly. It is smarter, personalised and almost infinitely granular.

In the semantic web there will be unique machine and human understood addresses for each piece and type of information. There will be countless numbers of distinct addresses available, so each thought, image, and word will have a unique address. A side effect of this is that as the number of these “web” addresses increase then they will lose their relevance to marketing – the old “broadcast model of interactive” based around a slick microsite will become less effective. Traditional Browser-based web page access will become less and less dominant as information becomes more important and accessible than the old traditional data pots, pages and directories used to organise it.1 The first steps are already being seen with the beta release of Google’s Chrome – the browser that aims to have “one box for everything” and acknowledges that “what we really need [is] not just a browser, but a modern platform for web pages and applications.” Google has consolidated the separate search box, employed by Firefox, IE and Opera, into the main address bar. The simplification has removed the usual menu items of File, History, Bookmarks and so forth, which are now are accessible through the address bar, by a dynamic keyword search. The result is a cleaner, more intuitive interface and the browser becomes a smarter, dynamic helper.

The future of advertising and marketing is at the new intersection of entertainment, information and utility. Advertising and marketing will live in, and function as, applications by which we access, filter and pull information towards us wherever we are located at any moment in time. This notion of smarter, anywhere and anytime access to information, entertainment and utility finds its current and near future realisation in the concept of the Cloud.

Continued…The Cloud – distributed creativity, information and access

1 Flo Heiss, The way things go