Tag: marketing

Xbox ONE – the product that Microsoft always wanted to make – shame they didn’t ask us what we wanted to buy

As a gaming enthusiast that never gets to play videogames any more, I’ve been following the developments at E3 with some interest.
Xbox-One_2584436b

This year is a big one, the proper launches of the first true next generation consoles (sorry Wii U, you really don’t count.) We’ve had to wait for these for longer than any other generation of console and the consumer demand has been growing steadily.

Of the last generation, the original Wii was the big winner in terms of console sales, although it never really competed with the Xbox 360 and PS3 as true gaming devices in terms of the number of games sold.

For the hardcore gamer, the Xbox 360 was the big winner, especially in Europe and the US. They did so much right: The price point was keener (due to the fact that they didn’t include an expensive technology in the form of a Blu-ray drive that they didn’t know if people wanted); the key exclusive games were truly newsworthy – Halo 3 and Gears of War and the new controller was just a really intuitive evolution of the original xbox s controller that everybody loved.

Within this package, Microsoft were also able to sell us a lot of stuff that we didn’t know we wanted. Xbox Live Gold, Live Arcade games, A wide suite of entertainment apps, Sky Player on the Xbox – brilliant. These things have all increased the influence that the console has had on the living room and made it an essential subscription each year.

So Microsoft should know the secret of success – Give people what they are asking for, at a price they are willing to pay, with some killer games that the fanboys can shout about. If you want to sell them something completely new, then don’t expect them to pay for it upfront, find a way to get it in the back door. It worked for Kinect for example. When they launched their new control device, it managed to be the fastest selling consumer device of all time!

So why have they got it so wrong this time?

They’ve launched the console that people wanted, but then insisted on attaching a piece of unproven technology that most people don’t want. The Kinect might have sold very well, but my understanding is that the attach rate for games was pretty low – just like the original Wii. There is a market for waving your arms around in front of the telly and most people are happy to have a couple of games like that, but the low sales of all the Kinect driven games that followed showed that it wasn’t ever going to be a big volume driver. On a personal note, my own Kinect camera is still stuck in the Garage from when we moved house. The Xbox came straight out, but I’ve had absolutely no reason to take the Kinect out again.

The inclusion of the Kinect wouldn’t be a problem if it was essentially a bonus, but by having it included, they have added about £100 to the retail price in comparison to the PS4.

That seems to be a huge mistake. These two consoles are going to be released at pretty much the same time, they will be perceived to be roughly equivalent in gaming power and so the only difference is that one comes with a £100 bit of kit that only a small proportion of the existing customer base will want – sound familiar? (For Kinect see Blu-ray)

Both this launch and the launch of the PS3 suffered from the same sense of hubris.

8 years ago, Sony were determined not just to launch a new console, but to use that console to win a format war – (a format war that frankly wasn’t worth winning as the physical format is dying quickly and being replaced by downloads and streaming) By focusing on the secondary business objective AND GETTING CUSTOMERS TO PAY FOR IT they lost the primary battle. They probably felt that they could because of their vast superiority in the previous generation – the PS2 is still one of the best selling consoles of all time and trounced the original Xbox – but they very quickly fell into 3rd place because they took their eye off the ball.

The same hubris will be behind what I expect to be the failure of Xbox ONE. Someone at Microsoft clearly has a vested interest in getting Kinect into every lounge in order to make it central to every family, rather than just the geeks upstairs. However by taking that choice away from their customer base they risk a mass exodus to PS4 – this is especially the case considering that the Xbox ONE has no backwards compatibility with the 360, so there is no tangible rational reason for current users to be loyal. The only thing left is “exclusives” and with a fairly average Halo 4 in recent memory and other franchises losing their freshness, I’m not convinced that there is enough to keep people in the Microsoft world.

The only saving grace for Microsoft is that Sony have a tendency to fuck this stuff up. The PSVita was a phenomenal piece of technology with huge amounts of innovation and style, but then they decided to insist upon proprietary memory cards because they wanted to force customers to buy extra cards and for Sony to make the money on them. In the short term this meant increased ARPU, but in the long term it just meant a lot fewer users and is now already a console we talk about in the past tense.

Anyway, rant nearly over. I just don’t understand how they can get this stuff so wrong. I haven’t even started on their decision to not allow used games etc (even though I kind of agree with this one) but everything that the twittersphere is buzzing with is all based in the same problem – that Microsoft have just made the product that they feel best fulfills their business strategy, rather than basing their business strategy around the products that people actually want to buy.

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IKEA – Old fashioned advertising that is perfect for a digital world

Hello all, I’ve been away for a while and thought I’d ease myself back in with a nice simple creative commentary

It pains me to say it (having recently stopped working on IKEA’s business and so can’t take any reflected glory) but I’ve been really impressed with the work that IKEA have been doing recently in the UK, it feels like it has really started to click for them.

They seem to have found the holy grail of the perfect balance of rational and emotional in mass market broadcast advertising as well as finding a good reason to develop engaging content for active consumption online. They’ve created a properly integrated and multifaceted campaign and to do this they seem to have gone back to traditional advertising basics. I reckon that the Adcontrarian would love this.

This season they appear to be promoting their storage range. It is a product area that IKEA are rightly proud of as they truly innovate in this area and pretty much everybody has something of this ilk from IKEA, but the problem is it just isn’t “sexy” like a sofa or a kitchen. It is just stuff to put other stuff in. About a year ago they had great intentions to get people interested by trying to create a war of the sexes with a “who’s messier: Men or Women?” But although an admirable effort it just didn’t take off with their customers.

This year they have clearly gone back to the drawing board and I think they have delivered some stunning results.

Building on the success of their last two kitchens campaigns (Kitchen Parties and Playing with my Friends) Mother appear to have decided to commit to the “music video” format for the central strand of their TV campaign. As such, the first thing I saw was this beautiful advert posing as a music video that serenaded the benefits of having better storage solutions. They managed to take an incredibly rational and potentially dull topic and make it all about falling in love, the most emotionally engaging topic of all.

For all the developments in digital media, a powerful TV campaign is still the single most effective way of driving brand and product consideration, it is also the first part of a campaign that people are likely to see and so it is vital that you nail that element and I (and most people commenting on Youtube) think they have. They’ve managed to showcase loads of products and the benefits without feeling overly commercial. Tying it together at the end with “Make room for your Life” they have taken last year’s broad theme of “Happy Inside” and made it more clearly relevant to consumers’ needs.

If they’d stopped here I’d say it was already a definite improvement on last year, but they also understand the power of different media and have taken the same theme and brought it to life in different contexts to move people from just a nice warm fluffy feeling about IKEA’s storage solutions to a more definite understanding of how YOU can use it to improve YOUR life. They’ve avoided the temptation of taking a still from the TV creative and have presented real stories in a very simple but compelling press format that could have fallen straight out of the pages of “Ogilvy on Advertising”

Ikea - Expedit Shelving Unit_2842806

The scan from a newspaper doesn’t do it justice, but the strong visual, coupled with with simple straightforward copy that connects human passions with practical solutions is actually incredibly refreshing. But isn’t it weird that it is surprising and refreshing to see an ad which basically just follows the rules on what we’ve always been told makes a great ad – such as this one

volkswagen_lemon

What Mother have been able to do however that Bill Bernbach couldn’t is then help consumers really witness the true benefit of Expedit shelving to Harry – this press ad sends readers who are interested to watch the story of Harry’s Vinyl on ikea.co.uk – a lovely 4 minute “changing rooms” style piece of content that is focused on using storage to help people do more of what they love. It manages to be emotionally engaging, yet at the same time is completely commercial as every item used is tagged so that viewers can go look it up for themselves later.

There is an alternative for the girls which focuses on Jess’s trainer obsession/business and so allows them to showcase their bedroom furniture range as well.

I think that this is a really smart integration of traditional advertising and digital content that fully delivers against solid business objectives. I dearly hope that work this good helps to sell more IKEA furniture!

If only Apple had been around in the 1880s, We’d have the fastest, prettiest iHorse ever by now.

I haven’t had an Apple rant in about a year, so those fanboys out there can look away now, you know what to expect. Except the next line might surprise you.

Apple’s NEW iPad went on sale last week to rapturous acclaim from all the Apple acolytes around the world, and for the first time ever, I wanted one. I’ve never truly desired any product made by Apple, (I know, I’m weird,) but when I saw this NEW iPad I had an irrational urge to own one. Well for about 5 minutes anyway.

After a period of soul-searching to try to understand this deviation in my character I realised that it was just one simple thing –

It’s “more” pretty.

That’s it.

OK if you are going to push it, it is prettier due to a really impressive high-resolution so called “retina” display.

And that is it. Just like the iPad 2 (and the original iPad) but a bit “More”

As far as I can tell the NEW iPad is nothing except a series of incremental improvements to the iPad 2 with one big incremental improvement to the screen. All the other improvements to camera and processing power are just to make sure that the experience of using the NEW iPad lives up to the experience of using the old one (because 4 times as many pixels requires a lot more processing power to render and photos from a 3 megapixel camera would look pretty crap on that screen)

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing new or inventive or innovative about the NEW iPad. And yet people will buy it in their droves because of that screen. It is a truly breathtaking piece of technology with images displayed in the usual slick Apple way and people will have a visceral gut reaction to it that will overcome any rational objections to the rest of it. Apparently 16,000 iPad2s recently landed on ebay as all the leading majority decided that they just HAD to upgrade.

And that in a nutshell is what Apple do best. They make faster horses, because that’s what everyone wants. They’ve realised that they could spend vast amounts on R&D creating completely new product functionality 90% of which would be a commercial failure, or they can just wait for Samsung or Sony or Acer or Archos or HTC or even Nokia to develop something new that is a commercial success and then they’ll spend a couple of years thinking about it and eventually release it (in an admittedly perfect incarnation) as a great new innovation.

What they would never do for example is release something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.

This is a new Android tablet from Samsung that incorporates a true digital stylus with a digitised screen (the technology used by CAD Draftsmen to design pretty much everything). It looks pretty amazing and I can see a huge amount of potential functionality that it provides that no other tablet can do. I also think that there is a good chance that it will be reasonably commercial successful. The original Galaxy Note has seen pretty respectable sales (after an admittedly slow start) considering that it is a fairly niche product that sits half way between a phone and a tablet and I actually think that the market for the 10.1 is significantly bigger. I’m pretty sure that I want one.

The thing is, it’s fine to have a corporation that just make perfected, more expensive versions of products that other companies invented. It’s absolutely fine and frankly we deserve products that just WORK the way that Apple products do. It was absolutely great for Apple to be the way they are when they were the challenger brand, forcing Microsoft to stay honest.

The problem comes when that corporation becomes the biggest company in the world.

It’s a problem when they move from being a niche minority product for rich people to being the market leader that has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It is a problem when their sales volumes are so high that they can actually price traditionally cheaper more innovative competitors out of the market. That is when you start to see a stagnation in innovation.

And I think that we are already seeing it. Take a look at the new HTC range. HTC has been a really interesting challenger to Apple’s domination over the past few years, but their recent showing at the technology expo’s is worrying. The new HTC One X is their new flagship phone and what does it actually do that is new? More pixels on the screen, better camera, faster processer. Sound familiar? It’s just another faster horse.

The problem also is an issue for Apple itself: Apple are the most valuable company in the world and yet they only really make about 4 products. There is zero room for failure in that model. If the next iPad or iPhone or Airbook came out and bombed, that would be 25% of their business in serious jeopardy. So they will always err on the side of caution and keep making faster horses rather than take any real risks. They’ve tried it once or twice with products such as Apple TV, but there was very little conviction in that effort. Apple are stuck in a cycle where they have to keep making the same product with just a bit “more” over and over again. They actually need the other companies to test new innovations on the public or they will have nothing to copy!

Well I for one will be supporting the true innovators, the companies that are willing to take a chance, that accept the fact that with true progress comes the chance of failure. I might end up buying a shit product, true, but I might just end up supporting something that actually moves the pace of technology forwards a tiny bit and I can feel good about that.

Giving the Finger to Rules of Thumb

I work in an industry where we seem to rely an awful lot on rules of thumb to make important and expensive decisions about how to spend marketing budgets. The next 1000 words are a bit of a rant about why I hate that, but also why it means I love my job! For those of you who don’t work in media or marketing this one might not be as fun as some of my other rants – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now rules of thumb are useful. They are useful so that you don’t have to start from scratch every time you look to make a budget decision. They are useful to spot something that is completely out of line with efficient and effective media principles. They are really useful when you are inevitably asked to pull together a recommendation by yesterday as they provide a shortcut to an answer which will probably be 70-80% correct (which is a damn sight better than if the client made it up themselves.)

Where they are really not useful, where they are in fact a hindrance, is when planners and marketers choose to abdicate their own intuitive sense and reasoning capabilities and instead use rules of thumb as planning LAW.

So some examples.

As a rule of thumb, IPA Datamine 2 (Marketing in an age of accountability) suggests that 3 media channels is the optimum number of channels to maximise the likelihood of delivering a positive business ROI for a campaign (This is also broadly supported in Datamine 3).

This is a useful rule. It tells me that if I spend a £20million budget exclusively on TV then I could probably improve my chances of success by diverting some of the budget into a different support medium. It also tells me that if my £10 million campaign has 8 different bought media channels on it then I should probably think about focusing or prioritising, ensuring that each of them is adding something new and valuable to the overall campaign. What it doesn’t mean is that a campaign which uses 5 different media is fundamentally wrong in all circumstances. From the graph we can obviously see that isn’t the case as over 50% of the case studies that used 5 media WERE successful, but it is just that the likelihood of success starts to decrease.

I was recently told that we shouldn’t add a “video marketing” strand to a TV campaign because we already were using press and radio in support of the TV campaign and so “online” would be an extra channel too far. This fundamentally misunderstood a) how the rule of thumb works and b) how people consume audio visual content in the 21st century. I’ve also been told variously that we shouldn’t include social media, PPC search and even SEO using the same rationale.

A number of things are to blame here

1) there is a mis-understanding by marketeers of the term “media channel” in the Datamine study. Media channels as defined in that context are traditional paid for advertising channels that allow you to broadcast a message to many people. Unfortunately “media channels” has been applied by the marketeers to anything that is managed for them by their Media Planning and Buying agency. In a world where the media agency remit is expanding far beyond the 5 traditional advertising media, this needs to change. Marketeers wouldn’t lump PR or sales promotions or CRM or any of the other core marketing functions into this “only 3 media” rule, so neither should they with social media or search

2) There is another form of siloing happening here as well – In this example, online video marketing is seen as a separate “channel” from television. However if all you are doing is ensuring that your TVC is discoverable in all places that people view AV content then it is clearly just an extension of “TV”. Unfortunately, fear of the unknown causes people to create false media segmentation and in doing so can miss out on a golden opportunity for cost effective amplification of their core advertising message.

The fundamental problem here is that people aren’t interrogating the rule. They aren’t asking “Why is 3 the optimum number” they are just accepting it as a shorcut and lazily using it as “the answer”. I’ve even heard of agencies where the mandate from the very top is “we do not use more than 3 media channels in any campaign” and they take great pride in their lazy inflexibility. I agree with the principle of “do fewer things, better” but to have such a coarse rule offends my natural tendency to question, explore and push the boundaries of what communications can do.

It isn’t just in broad planning that we see these “rules of thumb” being used badly.

I’ve recently heard them used to justify quite specific media implementation. The product was an NPD for an FMCG brand that a colleague of mine works on and specifically it had a brand spanking new innovation which needed a bit of explanation. The team rightly identified that part of the role for communications was to demonstrate this functionality and so they allocated a portion of the budget for “demonstration” media. Where this fell down was by using rules of thumb badly. The logic went something like this

1) Digital media is good at “demonstration” because it can be animated (TV wasn’t an option due to budget constraints),
2) Women spend a lot of time shopping

ergo: We should do digital 6-sheet posters in Malls – obviously

To have gone ahead with this would have been completely wrong for a number of reasons: 1)the 5 seconds of animation on the poster simply wouldn’t have been adequate for the message; 2) the attention of the average Mall shopper is being demanded constantly by hundreds of more interesting items – primarily the shop windows that they are gazing into – they aren’t going to spend any time watching a reel of posters in case something relevant pops up; 3)this audience is in “fun” shopping mode, they are thinking about buying the stuff that makes them feel sexy/cool/young etc – what they aren’t thinking about is what they are going to feed their kids that evening. I could go on.

The point is that the “rules of thumb” suggested that this was a relevant media, but intuitively it is really clear that it would be a inappropriate use of marketing money against those comms objectives. The problem is that some people had just stopped at the answer that the rule of thumb delivered, without really applying any understanding of why the rule of thumb existed and whether or not it truly applied to the human behaviour in question.

And this in turn brings me to my final conclusion – Why I love my job. Yes I hate the way that too many marketing services professionals use lazy rules of thumb to make their media decisions for them, but the nature of the media industry means that there will always be a place for people to question received wisdom as we work in an industry that is constantly evolving and changing. Since I started in media 12 years ago, the media opportunities are virtually unrecognisable in so many ways. As new media channels constantly come to the fore, any “rule of thumb” inevitably has to be re-evaluated and there will always be a place for people who understand not just the basic rules about what works in communications, but for people who always ask why it works so that they can intuitively understand whether the latest greatest media phenomenon is actually relevant or a big noisy red herring. No computer or “Black Box” planning tool is ever going to be able to do that, well not in my lifetime anyway!

Bring on the next 12 years.

Sustainable Communications vs Media Exploitation – a Manifesto

I’ve been working in media and communications strategy for over 11 years now and I’ve been writing this blog for about 3 or 4 years on and off and I’ve never thought to write a manifesto; Something that puts in writing the basic principles of what I believe to be best practice in our industry and the fundamentals against which I hope to measure my own actions.

There are a few reasons why I haven’t done this:

1) It never occured to me before

2) Even if it had I wouldn’t have expected anyone to have any desire to read it

3) I didn’t really ever consolidate these “basic principles” in any way that didn’t involve a beer fuelled chat with media buddies in the pub.

Well that’s changed recently and here I am trying to set out my manifesto because:

1) It’s occured to me to do so

2) It doesn’t matter how many people read it, but many thanks if you are

3) I think that our industry really needs to start looking at the consequences of our behaviour and start to invest in the future.

The source of this manifesto (well it’s more of a mission statement really) came from a conversation with the Chief Architect of Bing in the UK, Dave Coplin. We were discussing recent developments with Bing’s equivalent of Streetview and he was outlining his strategy for ensuring that the privacy of individuals was protected as far as possible, whilst maintaining maximum utility for users (which could potentially invade their privacy.) What became clear is that he considered ” a right to privacy” (in the digital media world) to be an implied contract between individual and service provider. People actually give up their right to privacy all the time as long as they are getting clear value in return and they are in control of what happens to the information they divulge. What became clear in our conversation was the care and attention that Microsoft were investing in ensuring that the “contract” with consumers was always preserved -that they always knew what they were giving up and what value they were receiving in return.

The words “value exchange” are bandied around an awful lot, but in Dave’s eyes it was fundamental to Microsoft’s entire relationship as a media owner with consumers.

This formed the spark for the philosophy and manifesto that I’m about to deliver so here goes:

Here’s what I believe:

1) Human attention is a valuable natural resource, allowing us to learn about the world around us, adapt our behaviour for optimal utility of that world and to evolve our attitudes for maximum enjoyment of the world

2) Human attention is NOT an infinite resource, there is only so much new information we can take in at any time and only so many things that we can be persuaded to care about

3) All marketing and communications require that we capture that human attention

4) Human attention naturally concentrates and clusters around certain content and media because of the value it contributes to their lives, NOT because of the amount of advertising they find there

5) Just like any natural resource, over-exploitation of the human attention to media will inevitably lead to the dilution and eventual destruction of that attention and make it impossible for us to harness it any way, positive or negative.

(Yeah I love that pic!)

6) It should therefore be the responsibility of advertisers to not just exploit a medium for the audience that it attracts, but to invest in that medium with sustainable communications to ensure that it continues to deliver value to consumers and in turn provide a continuing resource for brands to communicate to those audiences.

Some advertisers might claim that they already do this – by paying to advertise in a medium they say they are investing in the quality of content that medium can provide.  And maybe that used to be true. Maybe some consumers do watch advertising in the knowledge that they are entering into a contract with the media channel to “pay” for the content they choose to watch by also watching content that they would rather not. However I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this is true of most advertising messages.

As advertisers we “buy” an audience that media owners “sell” to us. Because of that we think we have a right to put pretty much anything we can get away with in front of that audience and we approach every consumer contact with the question  “what can my brand get out of this?”.

A perfect example of this is the recent news story that Ford had “secured” a corporate page on Google+. What I found remarkable about this was that a) Ford had ignored Google’s request for advertisers to back off until they had worked out how to showcase corporate accounts and b) No-one seems to have a clue what Ford are doing there and what they hope to get out of it. All that they seem interested in is the fact that there are 10 million+ people already signed up and that it is currently unexploited so they get to be first. No-one knows how people are using Google+, what it is all about and what they can get out of it, but Ford are happy to steam in and plant their corporate size 9 footprints over everything.

This shouldn’t be surprising. As soon as an emerging technology develops into something that looks a bit like a “medium” then every client I have wants to know “How should I be using it?” There is an assumption that if there is an audience then we should be exploiting it. The same happened with Twitter and I can’t even think about doing a campaign without being asked “what will my facebook page look like”.

I also look  at the dead and dying media brands that have failed to keep up with the ever increasing demands of advertisers and investors and so have been abandoned by the wayside. Internet brands such as Myspace that has effectively been ditched – at a loss of half a billion dollars –  because no-one could work out how to make it work for advertisers.

I start to feel an element of responsibility for this. If every  new medium is disected and assessed solely based on it’s ability to generate advertising income then potentially viable media products and businesses that could have had another business model are simply allowed to fade away.

Now maybe this isn’t a problem whilst there is a steady flow of sacrificial lambs for us to exploit, plunder and destroy, and maybe it is fine when consumers don’t have a choice whether or not we target them, but I believe the days of being able to exploit media with impunity are numbered. Consumers have more and more tools that enable them to choose whether to engage with advertisers or not and the longer we abuse their good will and force interruption to their media consumption with unwelcome messages, the quicker they will learn how to switch us off. Indeed there is legislation coming which will force consumers to make that choice (see anti-cookie European legislation)

So here’s where I start my campaign for sustainable communication (I got here eventually!).

I believe that the most successful advertisers in the next 20 years will be those that understand that we have a duty to respect the contract between advertisers and consumers and deliver true value in our communications.

We need to ensure that we are investing in successful media, not just by buying media space, but by delivering content and messages that in and of themselves increase the value that consumers take out of that media space. Rather than saying “what’s the next big thing” all the time, we should be saying “how do we make the current big thing work better for consumers” so that we don’t have to start all over again when we have bullied them out of the media that they used to love.

For my part, whenever I am asked to consider a new media opportunity, I am going to endeavour to start with the question “How can I make that media better for the consumers who are consuming it” rather than “How can I make a quick buck here”. And let me be clear – another generic TV ad with animated animals or a beautiful woman selling perfume does not make my experience of that medium better. Most ads that your average advertiser likes are frankly wallpaper for your average consumer.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be adding examples of campaigns that are either examples of great sustainable communications or worrying examples of media exploitation.

Please feel free to send me any good examples of either.

As a starter for 10, please check out the mediaweek award shortlisted Panasonic Advertiser funded programme “How to take stunning pictures”. This was a piece of TV content on channel 5 that out-performed it’s alloted programming slot and was hugely popular with consumers and client alike. In addition Panasonic were able to clearly convey their commitment to helping the average photography enthusiasts get the most out of amateur photography. And it sold Panasonic Lumix cameras – lots of them.

In #myextrahour I’ll disect this new twitter campaign

I returned from new York last Sunday to discover this campaign from Europcar had cropped up all over London.

For those of you not in London, the basic premise is that Europcar’s new service “FreeDeliver” will save you time, essentially giving you an extra hour in your day to do with as you will. I first saw this campaign on a fairly standard panel on a train and noticed at the bottom it suggested that I should twitter what I would do with #myextrahour.

My initial reaction was somewhat cynical “Really? People are going to bother tweating about Europcar? and are Europcar’s audience really on Twitter anyway?”. I believe that social media can be a powerful force in the right campaigns, but it has to be an organic process. Surely the UK public aren’t going to fall for this are they?

But the general commentary amongst my peer-group was pretty positive and when I looked into it, this was a well structured media campaign. The static posters drove people to twitter, but in turn their tweets were being displayed on Digital 6 sheets and billboards across London allowing consumers to broadcast their ideas for how to spend their spare time. I also thought that this was a pretty brave approach and at least they are trying to do something a bit different. It definitely stands them apart from their competitors.

But then my cynicism kicked back in and I decided to follow #myextrahour to find out what people were saying. I discovered that people tweeting it divided up into 5 groups

1) People who work for Ogilvy (the creative agency running the campaign) complying with the spirit of the campaign and suggesting activities for the extra hour that ranged from the banal to the inane
2) People who work in social media and web marketing hooking up with Ogilvy in a mutual love-in and orgy of self congratulation
3) People who suggested defacing the campaign in their extra hour
4) People trying to get past the moderator and get profanity onto a London Billboard
5) One guy who was using it to send people to a competitor site (enterprise) and lots of people re-tweeting the “Corporate Twitterbot FAIL” that ensued.

oh and 6) Europcar

In total since Saturday there have been about 60 tweets, and I can’t find one that is from an actual member of the public who has engaged with this campaign in a non-cynical and genuine way.

This a) makes me happy because I was right and b) makes me sad because I was right.

I just don’t think that a brand like Europcar which has no defined brand identity or personality (or none that exists outside of their own marketing team) can drive a social media movement in this way and expect people to actually bother engaging. We are a cynical bunch, particularly in London and we won’t be told what to think, what to share or how. Fundamentally people don’t have an overwhelming urge to engage with advertising campaigns and to get them to do so you need to deliver a great deal more value to them than this campaign does.

Whenever I look at campaigns like this I revert to my standard motto which is “what does the consumer actually get out of this”, and in this case, I really have no answer.

I also think that if you insist on trying something like this you need a much clearer call to action and use a media that can really bring “an extra hour” to life in an emotionally engaging way. This seems to be crying out for a full-on “Bisto” style emotional TV treatment that might just cut through our cynicism, bring a moment of laughter, joy, nostalgia, etc into people’s lives and maybe, just maybe get people to share some truly inspirational and worthwhile thoughts.

Marketing Assumptions – making an ass of you and mption.

I was involved in a discussion today about a client of mine that shall remain nameless, but has caused me to think about some of the basic assumptions that we tend to make in the marketing and particularly advertising industries and whether or not they are still (or were ever) true.

I was told today in a fairly categorical way that there are 3 basic things that every brand needs to do

1) It needs to make itself visible
2) It needs to make itself findable
3) It needs to stand for something

The assertion was that if a brand was not delivering on one of these areas then it would be fundamentally failing. This point was particularly being used to push home point 3) i.e. that we needed to do some Brand led advertising to establish the “positioning” of our brand in the category.

Initially it was quite easy just to go along with this as it supports pretty much all of the campaigns I have ever worked on, but then I started to ask the simple question “Why?”

Once I started to do that I realised that there were very successful and growing brands that “failed” on one, two or even all three counts.

I considered the energy category in the UK (I happen to work on one of the leading brands) and realised that the number 2 brand which has come out of nowhere in the past 5 years is Scottish and Southern. Scottish and Southern have virtually no brand advertising, well certainly none that I’ve ever seen, they don’t sponsor anything that I’m aware of either. And they don’t “stand for” anything that is differentiated in any way, their product is identical to everyone elses, Yet by simply focusing on getting their costs down and taking advantage of the online brokers, they have managed to steal a huge amount of market share. So of the 3 “must-do’s” they actually only do one and are very successful in doing so.

I then thought of a brand that actually has managed to be incredibly successful without making any effort to succeed at any of the 3. You all wear it and Bloomberg rated it as one of the top 30 most influential companies in the world a couple of years ago, you’ve even seen it on this page, yet there is a significant chance that you’ve never heard of it – YKK (stands for Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha) are the initials that adorn most of the zippers in the world, but as far as I’m aware, they’ve never had a brand advertising campaign, they don’t have a brand positioning and I can’t even see a search strategy when I type zippers into Google, but I believe that they are one of the most prolific brands in the world.

And before you say “they aren’t a brand, they are just a product” then why are they now facing a counterfeiting problem with people making fake YKK zips.

Now you could argue that YKK stands for quality and Scottish and Southern stand for cheapness, but that could be just our marketing heads trying to force these brands into the models that we understand. I’m pretty sure that YKK never sat down and created a brand “onion” or compared themselves to a famous personality, they just got on with making good zips and getting clothing companies to put them on their products (Oh and a bit of illegal price fixing along the way leading to a €150million fine from the European courts!)

Anyway, the point is that we so quickly jump to answers in our industry that we simply don’t stop and ask “Why?” enough. Sometimes it is because we think that the client doesn’t know the answer and sometimes it is because we know that they do and we won’t like it. I don’t think that’s good enough. If we really want to make a difference for our clients and the brands we work on we have to start to challenge the fundamental assumptions sometimes and it just takes one word.

It’s Easy!