Posts filed under ‘theory’

Nastiness Trending

When we started using Google Trends to glean some trend insights, it was all business at first. Then, it became a tool look at some trends no one likes to talk about. We started entering stuff like “Porn” or even worse “child porn” or anything nasty. Hence, I coigned the term “Nastiness Trending”. It’s quite a sublime thing, from which to derive a weird, negative pleasure. The pleasure part comes from knowing which countries have the nastiest google users, and being lucky if your country isn’t in the Top 10.

Obviously, we weren’t the only one with this idea, in fact a German newspaper made an article about it.

However, the whole thing is a bit tricky, because you have to choose the keywords in a certain language, so you cannot definitively say that, e.g. in the porn case, South Africans are the nastiest.

I am waiting for the day where you can do compound trending in different languages.


July 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

The long tail: digital myth or not?

The “long tail” has been a theory accepted as fact in the digital community. It described and explained what we believed in so well, and it all makes sense. In fact, to some of us it was a source of credibility for whatever it was we’re doing, selling, or referring to: the power of the individual, individual experiences, tailored and customized offerings in a distributed and digital world that makes all of that possible.

Now, some people are rocking the boat and saying that it was all a hoax. Not a surprise, really. Every theory has a counter-theory. Surprising is that it took this long.

Found on Alan’s friendfeed

July 2, 2008 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Unsure on how to make your Brand Research more effective again? Stick people into MRIs.

I recently read an article in Adage, written by Moshe Bar, Director at the NeuroCognition Lab at Harvard Medical school. As more and more people say that asking consumers to critique ads is, like, so yesterday (which I mostly agree with), Moshe comes out and puts his Ph.D. and scientific research to use for the Advertising folks. In fact, the last paragraph of said article ends:

[…] advertisers could go even further by better understanding the basic science of the human mind. Don’t you want to know how to better generate positive associations that will stick in memory? Or how context and attentions filter the perception of reality? Or the way that mood affects people’s desires? My guess is you do.

Ok. Duh. Yeah, who wouldn’t like to know? Especially when there are so many pseudo-scientific research methodologies that all promise the same. Looks like Mr. Bar isn’t just offering a new look at things to Brand Researchers, he is also pushing the right buttons for us a target audience (i.e. real science giving answers to difficult marketing questions).

So is this type of research really any different in terms of effectiveness to create compelling ads, or did Harvard’s research grant fund run dry as to have to go in cahoots with the lowly spheres of the communications industry? Is it that instead of a nice subjective and ineffective chat with your consumers around a table, you actually stick them into an MRI? That certainly is upping the ante (those things are huge and expensive after all), and I do believe it gives you answers to which emotions might be triggered. I am not a scientist, but when Mr. Bar says “If we scientists have behavioral methods that we believe could modify the associations elicited in post-traumatic stress, changing associations in a retailer’s reputations should be a walk in the park in comparison, using the exactly the same principles,” I kind of go “Mreep?”. I am not sure why, because I don’t have an MRI in our research lab, but let me try to guess.

First of all, likening post-traumatic stress to a emotional reactions to an ad seem kind of, well, like making a mousetrap the size of a house. It’s friggin ads, not memories of your tank Humvee being blown up in Iraq. While I do believe the article that, scientifically, the same principles apply in terms of being able to measure emotional triggers, even in ads, I wonder if the level of the response in those cases when you measure ads is equally as relevant as when deal with real issues like PTS. What I mean is, if you find out (as described in the article) that an ad containing sharp objects makes people nervous, and you use this insight as part of a creative brief, may we not, at some point be overdoing it? Does an ad message have to be as complicated as including deeply rooted human psychological and even phylogenetic insights? Maybe it can and maybe it is not as complicated. I just feel that continuing research on PTS is more important and different league than that of making ads. Currently brand research suffers from too many methodologies, not to little. Apart from that, there may be a bit of a problem with applicability and feasibility with this scientific approach for the purposes of brand research at this point. I am all for trying out research methodology as described in the arcticle is a good idea to gain more understanding in how we, as humans, work, and I do believe it will even have effects on how we think about communications. But for now, I know there are a number of really good and inexpensive tools (some even scientific) that allow us to observe human behavior instead of simply ineffectively asking people’s opinions. Those seem like a good way forward for now, and the kind of stuff done by researchers like Moshe Bar, as mind-bogglingly amazing it really is, operates at a more fundamental level: the kind of level that is established when scientist try to find out how we all function.

December 9, 2007 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

The Problem with Viral Marketing (Part II)

Just recently I posted something on the problem of viral marketing, naming some of the reasons why it doesn’t always work. Just days later I found an article on Adage about an Math Professor explaining it his way, rooted in a much more fundamental theory that some of the readily-accepted theories like “tipping points”, “social network media” and “influencers” may actually not be all that true.

One really interesting point he is making is that it’s not just that you need a viral idea, you need to seed it where you get contagion. So in a way, what planning can do, if anything, is find some potentially advantageous contagion parameters and that, actually, specificity of the target and choosing influencers over “normal” people to spread the idea aren’t necessarily the ones who make a viral idea contagious. As the article states, “sounds a lot like mass communication, doesn’t it?”.

Not only does this fly in the face of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping point theory, and the hype of social network’s importance for viral ideas, it also says you can’t actually expect an agency to come up with a viral idea that works, except to see if it maybe will work. AND, it also insinuates that the whole discipline and task of marketing in itself, which is dependent on strategies derived from tested insight, does not apply here.

I am totally torn on whether to say: “Duh” or “Wow.” All I can say is: thank god to the math whizzes for providing a contradictory insight that helps us question how we accept theories and let us fine-tune our process to get a more successful communication outcome.

July 18, 2007 at 11:52 pm 2 comments

Three cheers for “exuberant, foolish, mad overinvestment!”

bubble.jpgWith all the worry going around about Web2.0 being yet another bubble, Slate columnist Gross takes a counterintuitive look at economic bubbles—those once-in-a-generation crazes that everyone knows can’t last, and don’t. With each one, we lament having gotten in too late, and then not having gotten out soon enough, and finally shake our heads at the inevitable bankruptcies and lost jobs and general financial wreckage. The pattern is all too familiar, which is why Gross’s argument is so intriguing: that these bubbles, with their hype and madness and overenthusiasm, are not to be feared—they’re actually a primary engine of “America’s remarkable record of economic growth and innovation.” The author surveys modern bubbles and finds the benefits far more durable than the disruptions: in each case, most investors flopped, but businesses and consumers found themselves with a “usable commercial infrastructure” that they quickly put to new uses. The telegraph “led to the creation of national and international financial markets”; extra railroad lines made national consumer brands possible and gave consumers access to distant stores; extra fiber-optic capacity gave everyone Internet access after the bust. Gross drops zingers throughout his cheery history, amusingly highlighting parallels between past and current bubbles. He concludes—with admirable practicality—by calling for a “real bubble” to jump-start alternative-energy programs. Amazon.

June 28, 2007 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

My Diatribe on “Digital” vs “Traditional” Agencies

Just found a video which was presented in Cannes about “Digital Creativity” with some good quotes from senior creatives with some opinions such as:

  • the Internet as Medium isn’t just one channel it is as many channels as you make of it
  • that it hasn’t just changed the requirements for how to communicate, but that it has changed the landscape completely
  • that traditional agency tools do not cover these new developments, in fact that they never had to do as good of a job in tradtional media as they would have to do online
  • that all big ideas will come from the Internet because it is the most relevant medium today, just like TV used to be in times past
  • that everything keeps changing rapidly, and there is no one approach or methodology to predict anything with

Apart from not understanding what they mean by “digital” creativity (in comparison to “analog”creativity??), I agree with most of the statements themselves. In fact, I am surprised that some say that people don’t know of the importance of the internet or believe otherwise or refute its validity. Over the years, most of the people I have worked with have been making statements like that for, what, 12 years now. And now people who previously were unsure about the digital space suddenly go tooting the digital horn?

Like, hello? Welcome to the “interweb”. Glad you could make it.

So yeah, within the argument of the video, it is an easy point to make that certain traditional agencies (as well as certain of their clients) have been missing the boat on like, errr…, 12 years of stuff going on, demanding to keep making their money with a 12% cut off the media budget, due to their business model (built on the TV network and media structure of the 1960s-80s), their antiquated consumer and market research methods, out-of-touch view of the “consumer”, their philosophy of creative as an end to a means (as opposed to a means to an end).

Obviously then, it is equally as easy to point out the results of this: Increasingly irrelevant communication concepts, back-slapping award shows, dipping sales and the fact that consumers themselves now create more compelling messaging for brands than the companies and agencies actually tasked with it.

And yes, more and more touchpoints will become digital. More and more awareness, consideration and retention processes will be influenced by the increasing digital lifestyle, and as a result, more ideas will come from creative solution processes for this digital lifestyle. Even offline touchpoints and communications as well as underlying business processes have already changed and will change even more.

However, the perspective some digital creative agencies have adopted suggests to me that they are bound to make the same mistakes as the so-called “Traditional Agency”. They use their medium-specific creative and technological development capabilities and equate them with “being the most creative” or “the most relevant”. If they don’t adjust their capabilities and retain a flexible innovation architecture in order to be able to generate more than digital insight, digital strategy and digital communications, they will be overwhelmed by the next big thing, just as traditional agencies were. My guess is, the next big thing isn’t gonna be webx.0, but rather “Marketing 5.0”.

In the end, the weakness inherent to the 100% digital proposition isn’t that you can’t make money with it now, or that it won’t remain a really important factor of how communications will be played. The weakness is that building a services structure that doesn’t consider all touchpoints and examines all types of consumer experiences and brand experiences will ultimately only be able to be sold as a specialized solution, not a provider of encompassing big ideas. Because, the last time I checked, we don’t live as disembodied avatars enjoying our Burger & Coke digitally, bringing our kids to school digitally, getting a high from corporal excercise digitally, falling in love digitally, etc.

So, while the digital space is a driving force behind a lot of factors for consumer expectations and brand communications, to me, the most interesting task in all of this is: How do we generate better insights about this changed landscape, and come up with new types of developing strategies and ideas and then apply them regardless of a “channel”? After all, ideas are ideas. The factors of what I call the Four Rs: reach, relevance, resonance, and response of communications cannot be owned because you know how develop for a particular medium du jour. Creating powerful communications has always been owned by the most relevant insight, the most strategic idea and the most compelling creative, whether it is the radio of the 30s or the TV of the 50s or the latest version number of the web today.
To the consumer of today, the channel is irrelevant anyway until he doesn’t get the experience he expected from it. He adopts technology in search of this experience, doesn’t give a fetid donkey’s kidney on how a company and marketer produces content, services or products. He wants interactions with brands his way, when and where he wants it.

“Convergence”, “Channel-agnostics” and “Through the line” aren’t just cool things to do, it is what people expect anyway. In fact, it’s not just brands who are in the position to create new things to then convince the consumer of. It is actually the consumer now who is convincing brands to finally deliver what he has been expecting anyway.

To end this diatribe, the Internet as integrator of all channels is key in making articifical differentiation between “lines” (ATL/BTL) go away to enable more relevant “brand experience delivery”. But what really sets the boundaries for the competitive playing field of communication agencies isn’t which medium they develop for. It is how well agencies will be able to help companies deliver the delayed fulfillment of brand experiences regardless of medium, based on the understanding that, weirdly enough, the medium is indeed the message, but only because, today, the medium is the individual consumer himself.

It’s off to the races, no training wheels on.

June 21, 2007 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

The Problem with Viral Advertising

With all the web2.0 hype, many brands want viral advertising for their products and brands. To me, the word “viral advertising” they way it is praticed by marketers and agencies is an oxymoron. Sure, a great viral video can do a lot for a brand (both positively and negatively), but mostly when it comes from users themselves. While there are notable exceptions where brand marketers have shown guts to risk things with the help of creative agencies, to ask for a viral concept from an agency usually doesn’t work. You end up with longer cut TV commercial posted on youtube, or microsite concepts where the original idea has been eviscerated and censored down by corporate communications and lawyers to the point of irrelevance. It’s often canned, not participatory. So what are the factors?

  1. “Prosumers”: In a world where consumers have become producers of the content they consume, the content produced by other people “like me” is more credible, authentic and often even funnier than by a company that wants to sell me stuff.
  2. The catechism of the corporate identity: CD/CI guidelines that need to be followed encumber the creative and production process, and if they are adhered to, the production often looks too polished and not as authentic.
  3. “The Suits”: Legal issues and marketing guidelines constrain the creative process.
  4. “Mandatories”: Sometimes, marketing decision-makers will require the product communication mandatories to be forced onto a viral concept, and therefore diluting the directness of the message.
  5. Lack of channel and context adequacy: Often good ATL ideas with potential for online viral effects are shifted too literally to the web. The result is a complete lack of context-sensitivity and relevance in the eye of the user.

A recent random example: In Germany, the Drama Series “24” has been parodized by dubbing the voice of the 24 characters in Swabian dialect (a regional vernacular). This is extremly funny to most people here. (the video is posted below for all the Swabians here). Whether or not it helps the “brand” of 24 remains to be discussed, but let’s just say it is.

Question 1: Would certain creative agencies have been able to come up with that? I think so.

Question 2: Would they even gotten a brief in which to propose such a concept? Maybe.

Question 3: If they had received a brief to come up with a concept like this, would the client sign-off on it? Most likely no, only the wild and daring ones.
What is the consequence of this?

Because brands and even (inofficial, user-generated) brand communications are influenced more and more by the content producing consumer (prosumer), brands that are not innovative in their marketing communication processes and refuse to accept the consumers own role in brand communications will not just miss out on producing content that is relevant for the consumer, but also fail to actively build their brand in the digital space.

What can you do?

1) Accept the consumers new role and believe that the like your brand

2) Let him/her participate in brand communications development through more qualititative research and lead user workshop. Most people would even give their time for free, the reward of participating in your brand makes them feel special. Don’t stick them into a segment with millions of others.

3) Come up with governance and brand strategies and account for points 1+2 while securing legal issues and brand consistency.

The video:

June 20, 2007 at 9:11 pm 1 comment

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