Strategy models are not orphans

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Illustration by: @momok (I don’t have to credit, but I want to)

While developing work for both recent client projects as well as my D&AD masterclass, I realised one of the cardinal sins of the way many agencies and consultancies present strategy.

Most times, when an agency puts a model or a framework in front of a client, it as if it came from nowhere. It is almost never credited to the original inventors. Even agencies that would never share a creative work without crediting its origin (although orphan case studies and best practices are also common), often wouldn’t dignify strategy the same way. Continue reading

Bonfyres of vanities: the pitfalls of a cultural Fyre-Sale

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The great thing about the Fyre festival documentary (Netflix version) is that it works on so many levels. I think it’s a must-watch for anyone in the creative industry, media and the entrepreneur/VC space. Spheres of influence where realities are constructed and promoted, often with little regard to consequence. Let it be our cautionary tale.

Liar, liar pants on Fyre!

On a surface level, there’s the story of the epic disaster itself — a fractal-shaped clusterfuck of clusterfucks.

Early on, as a viewer, even if you had no awareness of the news story at the time, you think you know what’s coming because you know the premise. Well, guess again because it gets more and more extreme and peculiar –twist upon twist. It’s one of the things that make it such a weirdly enjoyable film to watch. I don’t want to drop any spoilers, but two moments that left me picking up my jaw off the floor were around the toxic ethos of ‘taking one for the team’ and the inevitable ‘force majeure’. More on those later. Continue reading

Has Gillette made a mistake? Marketing meets politics

So apparently some men out there are throwing their toys out of the pram because of Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ advert.

Gillette dares to suggest the rising awareness of toxic masculinity, and its harm is an opportunity for growth. Perhaps (GASP!) for change, or even a commitment worth making. That’s just too much, man!

However, some men are raging, because, you know, #notallmen.

So let’s sort this thing out first, shall we? THEN we can discuss whether it’s sensible marketing… Continue reading

Brand Strategy Returns to Radical Simplicity

simplicity.gifBranding was born to make things simpler. A collection of clear signs, telling a focused story, replacing complicated explanation. It helps your audience recognise you, hire you, and understand what makes your company a better choice. It’s fundamental stuff. Hopefully, the right branding influenced the right brand perception. And, according to Keller’s definition of brand, your brand supports the creation of ‘a mental structure to clarify decision’.

Brand platforms were born to articulate the ideas driving your branding. Your team and your agencies could then understand what it was all about, so they can deliver on it. Create the communications that tell your story. Design experiences that deliver the promise.

But somewhere along the way, things went horribly wrong. As marketing professionals were working on making things clear, consistent and easy to use, for many companies things were getting complicated. It started with something positive – a wider recognition of the importance of brands. Continue reading

The tensions of digital brand identities

tensionsVisual design is a vibrant, ever-evolving world. It always combines timeless principles with new tools and changing fashions. Contemporary design operates within a global culture that has been getting increasingly visual for over a century since the early days of mass media.

Brand identities, specifically, now spend a large part of their lives in digital environments. These environments offer both opportunities and challenges, but are we really seeing the amount of innovation we’d expect? The kind we’ve seen in product design or interface design. What are the key factors shaping brand identities in digital environments? Continue reading

Between your Brand and your Employer Brand

employer brandBusinesses are always looking for new competitive advantage and have started to catch on to the employer value proposition (EVP) as an attractive differentiator. This is a powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent, but is fraught with problems if handled badly.

However, there are really only three aspects of successful EVP that need considering:

The EVP must work together with your brand strategy

Just like a successful brand strategy, a successful EVP doesn’t just reach out, it reaches out to the right audience, so you can engage not only with the best talent, but the right talent that is best for you.

The war for talent, however, isn’t won on recruitment alone. For your existing workforce it serves as a reinforcement that they are at the right place; and it fuels their commitment to a long term career with you. With the cost of finding and replacing senior talent easily matching twice their annual salary, a strong employer brand is not just a nice to have, it’s an essential investment.

Your overall brand strategy already defines what your company is about. It taps into your history and culture and leverages your tone and points of difference. If you develop an EVP independently of your brand strategy, you will essentially split your brand in two. Instead, create a platform consistent with your brand strategy that clearly communicates what it means for talent. With multiple strategic frameworks involved it can get tricky. Continue reading

3 Marketing Trends for 2017

3+marketing+trends.gifIt is most likely that the universe and its trends don’t really care that the calendar digits have flipped over. That being the case, here are some wider trends that I believe we saw starting in 2016 and will go into 2017 and beyond.

Inter-agency collaboration making for better marketing, and also making marketing better

With the rising importance of interconnected media on the one hand, and budget pressures on the other, clients are expecting agencies to work together.

At WPP it’s called ‘horizontality’. Ad agencies join forces with their clients’ technology partners and digital agencies. Media agencies, using their scale, have tried to make the most of this trend by building in-house planning, creative and digital capabilities. However, more often than not they find themselves as the hubs of cross-agency collaboration. In a few cases large integrated marketing and PR agencies, are heading that way too.

As they go through those changes, all agencies also need to collaborate with growing in-house teams of tech people, designers and content people – partly due to clients looking for agile and efficient ways to respond to the market. I wonder if agencies have done enough to put in place cost-effective, agile response mechanisms.

An unexpected but positive side effect to this trend is a return to radical simplicity in brand strategy. The basic principles of most brand platforms and frameworks are the same, but agencies working to differentiate themselves give rise to superficial differences with models evolving into increasingly questionable metaphors. Onions, Temples, Keys, Keyholes, Bulbs, Fish, you name it. Worse yet, they are often clumped together, forming chimera-like creatures combining the ugliest, most scrupulous aspects of both marketing and organisational politics.

A method-salad starting point doesn’t allow agencies to stay focused and work in concert. As agencies and clients both now have to keep multiple teams on the same page, they are forced to go back to the fundamental elements that everyone can agree on and understand. This creates a natural distillation process that is very healthy for brands as well as for marketing as a discipline.

Social media is finally maturing

After a period of social media overhype, that work is being refocused around pragmatic goals and accountable measurements. As social media becomes more ubiquitous, the market stops seeing it as an end-all-be-all shiny-new solution that you either buy into or no. Continue reading