Tag Archives: brand planning

Webinale 2010 – Speed of Now

4 Jun

I’ve just returned from an interesting 12 hours in Berlin at the 2010 Webinale.

I got to do a Keynote on the final day with the theme of “The Speed of Now” where I tried to – very quickly – thread a theme through some of the topics of mobile, real-time, augmented reality and new technologies that the Webinale and the many different speakers were covering.

Something I do want to share, and something that I got to touch on in the Keynote, is an idea about what I think is the role and challenge for brands is in the future now that attention has become the new battleground. The quote that I think best describes this is Danah Boyd’s:

“As a technologist, we all like ‘techno-utopia’, this is the great democratiser. Sure, we’ve made creation and distribution more available to anyone, but at the same time we’ve made those things irrelevant. Now the commodity isn’t distribution, it’s attention – and guess what? Who gets attention is still sitting on a power law curve…we’re not actually democratising the whole system – we’re just shifting the way in which we discriminate.” Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research Lab

In this way I think the role for brands in the future is to act as an Enabler AND Filter. At the moment a lot of brands are trying to act as Enablers but very few are acting as Filters – and I think that it is brands that can fulfill this role which will have a great advantage in the future.

So what is planning and strategy now we’re all digital?

9 Dec

There seems to be a lot of debate going on about the role and value of planning and strategy within agencies.

Planners and strategists sometimes like to ask why and reframe questions multiple times, but if we’re to avoid risking the old recursive logic loop/analysis paralysis/navel-gaving problem, I think in this case it may be good to question what we’re really debating?

I don’t think it is just the role of planning.

From the Redscout and PSFK content stream to comment pieces like this, these debates actually seem to me to point to being about more than planning.

I think they’re about the role of agencies in a digital world, a world where one day there won’t be “digital” agencies or departments, just agencies that produce great ideas with a digital DNA.

It is in this context that I’ve been exploring the idea that agencies need to help brands to function as both enabler (of services, content, utility, entertainment) and filter (of noise, relevance, need) for people in order to have a role beyond passive loyalty. Brands not only need a position within a market/category but must also have a clear point of view their role in the world and as a contributer to the culture of their purchasers. This way agencies can evolve to help our clients to solve business problems in a culturally and practically positive way.

Strategy and Planning is in the ideal position to lead this process.

Planning and strategy needs to be more about doing. It needs to be involved in collaborative agile scrums with creatives or technologists to help shape the structure and effectiveness of a response, not just had over a brief.

Insight generation seems to be built all too frequently around the barriers to communication but it could be more about potential benefits, understanding, utility and cultural opportunities if strategic planning were to spread upstream in the process and even get involved in client NPD.

But spreading influence up and downstream should not mean diluting deeper analysis and thought to become a Jack of all trades.

It is vital that the deep dive, research methodology of good strategic planning and insight generation is maintained.

We can do this by exploring the culture and narrative around the challenge we are exploring and building a robust understanding of people in terms of their actions (What they do), the social context (Who they do the action with) and motivation (What they think or feel).

By definition insight occurs when people recognise relationships or make associations between objects and actions that can help them solve new problems. Insight generation is about recognising relationships that are already there or that can be created when two disparate facts/conditions come together. It is similar to the way the famous Telegraph cartoonist Matt described his art as, “putting two unconnected news stories together” to come up with something entertaining that makes you think about both the stories in new ways.

In this context strategy and planning is a creative act.

So instead of working alone, perhaps planners could adopt the partnership or team structure used in creative departments to combine different skillsets or areas of expertise (data/financial modeling paired with behavioural & technology insight)?

Admittedly some of this may sound like the protestations of a reformed sinner – having returned* to strategy/planning about a year and a half ago after 9 years as a hybrid creative and digital strategist I still have my little creative strops – but I think it is the external perspective on what planners do that is important.

We need to be the most effective people in the room, not the most intelligent.

So why is there a picture of Space Invaders at the top of this post? Because it is a great image (from a T-Shirt on Threadless, go and beg them to reprint more!) and because I think it is a great metaphor for planning and strategy – creating unexpected value by looking at the world from a deeper and different angle.


* Thanks to Trevor Wright the Planning Director at IMC who took me on many moons ago as a fresh faced, mop-topped grad, and gave me a position as a “Strategic Planner and New Media Manager” (big title with a small but gratefully accepted paycheck) before kicking me off to the creative/tech department after a couple of years when he realised that the agency “could plan anything but it wouldn’t matter if you can’t deliver it”. You can find him at Westminster Business School these days and I definitely recommend it.

Developing digital campaign strategies and the role of brand planning in the future

28 Aug

I was asked about a process for developing digital campaign strategies – particularly integrated campaigns – the other day, and I thought I might share some of my thoughts. Anyway, what began as a simple process piece became a series of thoughts about the role of digital strategy and brand planning which is probably on my mind as I embrace my hybrid journey more to the strategy side.

Obviously there is no set way, and every challenge requires a different approach but…

For us developing digital campaign strategy often begins with redeveloping the brief collaboratively with our clients in light of 6 core digital strategy/creative principles:

  • Empathy – Understand and appreciate the people you are talking to on their own terms without shouting. Promote their point of view.
  • Permission – Talk don’t push. We have no right to talk to anyone, it has to be on their terms. They have to give us permission or it is just extra noise.
  • Appropriate Intervention – Do things when it is right not just because we can. Technology lets us target according to time of day, part of a journey or behavioural activity.
  • Relevant Conversation – Talk about what they’re interested in based on what they have been doing and previous conversations.
  • Action/Interaction – Be playful, be useful. React and reward. People define their identities through their digital behaviors and connections and brands can be this glue.
  • Reality – The real world will always trump the virtual. Show and connect, don’t tell. Take interactive into the real world. The internet isn’t computers talking to computers, it’s people.

These principles should help us develop objectives that combine communications with people/technology insight to create a strategy that considers the total experience of consumers — that aims to be useful, useable and delightful. They act as a sense check and stop us marching off and doing something just because that is what the brief says.

The next stage is actually beginning the strategy itself – this means banning words like Twitter or YouSpace/MyTube and thinking about people.

It is about developing consumer insight, and to do this we use several techniques including developing Digital Footprints (what our audience does and does not do digitally), segmentation and  – because we have a UCD practise – Personas.

I think Personas are a key tool in communicating consumer insight. Their narrative and empathy-building aspects are particularly useful but they must be three dimensional enough to move beyond functional/task-based and inform the strategy, design, and communication goals of a campaign.

Using personas in developing a digital strategy enables us to think beyond execution and deliverables. It enables us to authentically play where our target plays, join their conversations and engage them in new ones. Personas are often developed during client and stakeholder workshops where we can also tackle conventional wisdom of a category, explore what motivates consumers and the path to purchase, and develop opportunities that fulfill consumer needs and turn convention on its head. 

The personas again enable us to sense check and think about the people who are going to experience our activity. 

It’s is also around this time that the old challenge I used to mutter as a creative rears its head: “Tell me something new, tell me something I don’t know?” It’s these bits of insight and research – whether about people or culture or the brand – that can give us the hook or spark that make a core thought. And only then do I get to start drawing one of my diagrams

I think the ultimate goal of this process is to develop a digital strategy that combines brand story and utility in a way that seeks to affect change in the real world – strategy that is right for business objectives, brand AND people who experience it. And they are not “end-users” but that is an argument for another day.

Ultimately I think digital strategy should be about developing less of a campaign and more of an idea/insight/experience that can exist as part of digitally enabled culture. 

The way digital strategists can do this properly and have a real business changing effect is to integrate Brand Planning and brand development into the process. They should not be separate. Digital strategy should not be about just about channels and Brand Planning should not have the carte blanche on what brands can and can’t be and do. Digital is the culture now.

I’ve always thought that the best digital creatives and planners are the ones that can instinctively answer the brief but then ask “wouldn’t it be fun if?”. They ask “what if”, have a playful feel for “things that are good enough to share”, and know that people “don’t wake up thinking about our brands” (MobileYouth). 

Indeed while there has always been a debate in interactive circles about Communicaton + Content v. Utility + Context it is  now more about a challenge to show not tell, to focus not so much on awareness but building sustainable grass roots support and “moving from an era of finding customers for our products [brands] to an era of finding products [brands] for our customers” (Seth Godin). It is acknowledging that every brand touchpoint has a social value.

Maybe we can combine this implicitly “iconoclastic” (or realistic) digital approach with traditional brand planning? 

Digital is home of Beta. Instead of treating a brand as a fixed artifact that is handed down with an approach that borders on Platonic Realism I think the more questioning and people-centric approach of digital strategy and creative can help develop brands for real people. Brands should be about getting fans to make more fans by giving them social currency and letting people use and shape the brand itself –whether directly or indirectly through insight feeding back on a continuous brand development process.

Perhaps this idea of the brand as digitally enabled piece of social and cultural currency can free digital strategy from focusing too much on channels/executions and in turn free brand planning from the shackles of 30 second mood films dependency?