The MAYA Principle: The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

“Making the strange familiar and making the familiar strange, again”

– David Foster Wallace (about realistic novels)

Reading the book “Hit Makers” reminded me about Raymond Loewy´s MAYA –principle. Raymond Loewy was one of the most iconic industrial designers of the last century. Among his works are Lucky Strike package (logo on both sides to maximize the visibility), Coke vending machines, Air Force One livery and Skylab space station (with window to look back to Earth) to name a few. MAYA-principle means:

“The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable”

To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising, make it familiar. This is one of the most important things to understand about human beings. The battle between familiarity and discovery shapes our whole lives. We want to feel safe, but at the same time we enjoy the thrill of challenge. The conflicting forces of safety and excitement explains why we resonate and like things that are familiar enough but also have something new in them. Loewy´s theory (which worked in practice) was also later proved in academic research.

Humans don´t want the same old thing all over again, but they also don´t want totally new thing. They want the same thing with slight twist. That is why Spotify´s weekly playlist works so well, it exposes you to new music but at the same time plays songs you are already familiar with. “Let It Be”, “Don´t Stop Believin”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “No Woman, No Cry” are built on the same chord progression. However, it would be ludicrous to say that these songs sound the same. There is lot of innovation in these songs, but it is innovation with boundaries. Innovation is not about thinking outside the box, it is about rethinking the box.

The secret to create things that resonate with popular audience is to embrace the conflict in the humans. It is not choice between neophilia (curiosity about new things) and neophobia (fear of anything too new), it is about finding the balance. This dualism is crucial in our industry as we quite often fall into the trap of going after whatever is new and shiny. Or we are too lazy and just do something that has been done before without adding any of the magic. Both are equally bad approaches to talk to the masses (which is the main goal for advertising). You have to find the balance between typicality and novelty.

The secret to popularity is to add slight hint of danger but still maintain the feeling of safety in your audience.

Advertisements
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Three Secrets of Apple´s Social Media Strategy

Apple does not have particular social media strategy.

By being quiet, they are one of the most talked about brands in social media. It naturally helps that you make iconic products with almost religious following. They have social media channels though, because they have realized the importance of social media as a reach driver. Apple does a lot of social media advertising to help to sell more of their products. What they are not doing is “joining the conversation”. Social media is eyeballs, not likes or tweets.

applehasnttweeted

Therefore Apple´s Instagram account is refreshing detour for their muted social media presence. They are actually posting things!

appleinstagram.png

But again, it is not about Apple starting a conversation or begging for engagement. They are highlighting photos that iPhone users have taken. They are tapping to existing behavior (#shotoniphone-hashtag has nearly million photos in Instagram). They are not telling about themselves, instead they are showcasing people using their products. Instead of talking about popular culture, they are popular culture.

The odds are that you are not working with iconic brand, so you might need to approach your social media strategy differently. Still, these rules might serve as the golden standard to which you should aim for:

  1. Make products people want to talk about.
  2. Use Social media mainly as a channel for reach, secondly to engagement.
  3. Showcase your users, not your brand or products.
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No Moment too Early for Machine-created Creatives

Good copy stops you to read. Bad copy as well (so in that way mediocrity is something you should avoid):

I like to read paper newspaper as it keeps me in touch of the current decline of print advertising (not to mention Straits Times gives interesting viewpoint to the society, mostly by what it omits to tell). This ad is a good example on why we should already move to machine-generated creatives for majority of advertisers.

Of course AI will eventually be able to do even better, more touching and innovative creatives than we do at the moment. Meanwhile we should at least try to differentiate a little, show what humans are better: emotions, insight, feelings. If we cannot add even a little bit of magic to whatever we do, AI will overcome us faster than we have predicted.

 

 

 

 

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Supermarket Champagne and How Quick Win is Not Always Beneficial for Your Brand

For a person coming from Finland where you only can buy wines from government-run monopoly even seeing wines in supermarket is somewhat mind-boggling. However where I advocate liberal policies, being too accessible might not be that wise strategy if you want to be regarded as premium luxury brand.

In the case of G.H. Mumm the genie is out of the bottle (no pun intented) and it has definitely positioned itself as a mainstream champagne. However even for supermarket champagne this promotion is just plain ridiculous:

gh_mumm

Taking picture of receipts?

Sending messages to dubious WhatsApp numbers?

How low will your brand go?

To me if you want to be perceived luxury you should not even be having promotions or discounts. But even if having promotion you could create a better and more luxurious experience, maybe a nice landing page or if you want to use messenger apps: a chatbot.

Brands are after quick wins and forget that those actions will deteriorate the brand on the long run.

(Some smartass might ask why I bought the bottle in the first place, which is a valid question. In this case, the wacky promotion did not stop me from buying the product (but it was close). I just ignored the promotion) 

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UX is Everything

There are too many passwords to remember.

Therefore the user experience of “forgot your password”-button is essential. Not surprisingly when I had to reset my password for Skype, I was not particularly happy with this captcha:

captcha

How you should write this up? First the rows or columns? Funnily (or annoyingly) enough the audio did not make any sense.

Eventually it took 15 minutes for me to reset my password and even then I am not exactly sure of the logic of captcha. Not surprisingly I generally prefer Hangouts over Skype.

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The Age of Assistant: The More Personalized and Predictive Internet

starwars

We are entering the age of assistants, they just reside in our mobile phones.

Internet used to be about destinations. Typing in URL. Searching for something you need in Google and then following that search result to the rabbit hole of different sites. Clicking on banner ads and going to the websites from those banners.

That age is soon long gone.

Although majority of firms are still basing their digital strategies on destination approach, we have already moved to the age of assistant. Internet will become more personalized, predictive and the same time it will become more even more centralized. Our communications will start revolving around our messenger app (mainly WhatsApp), our information gathering will happen in Google app (increasingly through voice) and our buying will start to focus (again increasingly more through voice). Every brand needs to become better in predicting user behavior to provide more personal service:

  1. Prediction will trump the destination approach

When I have booked a flight, Google will automatically say to me to check-in, take a taxi and arrive on time. I am not going willingly to websites of either my airline, the airport or taxi company. The whole journey is prompted by the assistance of Google and I am happy for it. Our digital properties must be able to work in conjunction with this new assistant ecosystem. We need to balance between positive surprise (“How did they know that? So cool!”) and slightly creepy  (“How did they know that?” So scary!).

  1. People want the service in their own personal way

Chatbots have just scratched the surface of conversational commerce. We want to order pizza with emojis. Get song recommendations based on the context (“Hey Google, play that new theme from James Bond”). While the world will become more voice and message-driven, the transactions will become more personal and conversational. We must revamp our service process and lingo, so that we are able to serve our consumers in way that is intuitive for them.

The future of your digital business will be revolving around consumer data. The more you can have it, the better you can predict the behavior and more personal service you can give. We are entering the age of assistant and the best butler will rule them all.

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Turning Over a New Leaf

Last week I started a new job.

It is always exciting times. Lots of new faces and names. New processes. Different snacks in pantry. Different slang.

First couple of weeks are also devastating: you are already anxious to make your mark but you should also listen and absorb as much as possible. First weeks are great time to ask those stupid questions that everyone is anxious to ask, but after a while are too afraid to do so. So I have been mainly trying to talk to as many people as possible and to think as much as possible. I know that soon the time to think is of high value.

Many people asked what prompted me to change the job. I gave the following analogy:

The key to continuous progress when you are training with weights is to frequently vary your load or the amount of repetitions. Not too often, because then you lose the focus and just do random things. Not too seldom either because then your muscles get too comfortable to your current exercise. For a while it felt to me that I was doing the right exercises at work, but I did not develop as fast as I desired. Then you start to analyze can you easily vary your load, repetitions or should you change a gym.

After four great years in R/GA, it was time for me to change the gym and also the complete training program.

It is of course early days, but it already looks like the training program is starting to bear a fruit.

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Anatomy of An Insight: Don´t Ask The Internet

Cyberchondria is a growing concern among many healthcare practitioners as patients can now research any and all symptoms of a rare disease, illness or condition, and manifest a state of medical anxiety.
-Wikipedia

I seldom get sick, but when occasionally I start to feel under the weather I will enter to full-fledged hypochondria. After entering the rabbit hole of Google searches I will be convinced that I have gotten some weird tropical disease and I am on my way to early grave. Knowledge is power, but quite often knowing too much about potential diseases will just result in increased anxiety. To tackle this common behavior, the healthcare app Babylon has launched a new outdoor campaign “Don´t ask the internet. Ask a real doctor”:

hangover

Insight: People find visiting their doctor cumbersome, so they try to self-diagnose themselves with Google and avoid doctor visits as long as possible. This results in false diagnoses and growing unsubstantiated fear about potential problems.

sorethroat

Good campaign idea combining the humans need of convenience and rising cyberchondria. Babylon health app provides diagnoses from fully qualified GPs (with some AI) to your mobile phone, so you can get authentic info but don´t need to physically visit doctor:

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Technics SL-1200: A Story of a Brand Who Deliberately Wants to Lose Its Street Credibility

dj

Me and my SL-1210 ca.2004

I own four turntables: one set back in (OG) home in Finland and one set here in Singapore (naturally as old DJ, I count turntables in pairs). All of these turntables are Technics SL-1200. In 2010 the production for these DJ workhorses ceased, but because of the current vinyl revival Panasonic has started to manufacture them again.

Only catch: they will cost about $2800 (about four times the previous retail price of Technics Sl-1200. To put it in perspective, I have used about $1500 for all my four turntables. I have nothing against companies trying to make more money, but the bigger problem I have with them is how they are alienating the group that made them famous to begin with:

“Our concept is analog records for hi-fi listening. D.J.s are fine, too, but as a marketing target it’s problematic. We don’t want to sell the 1200 as the best tool for D.J.ing. The 1200 is the 1200.”

-Hiro Morishita, Creative Director at Technics

Because of the DJ´s, sl-1200 has become one of the most well-known turntables in the world.  Now they are essentially disowning that group and trying to attract old and wealthy audiophiles. They have German classical pianist Alice Sara Ott as their global brand ambassador. They used to sponsor DJ championships before.

I have nothing personally against Alice, but I have seldom seen brands so totally disowning their heritage. Also it seems counterintuitive that when brands are struggling to target millennials and younger audience you have a company that has a great opportunity with that tricky target audience and totally neglecting to take advantage of it.

Vinyl sales are growing among millennials, hip-hop is worldwide phenomenon and DJs are biggest music superstars. You have a product that is naturally ingrained to all these trends. Many brands don´t have street credibility and try to borrow it. Technics Sl-1200 would need to borrow it, but instead they have pivoted to weird direction.

Not to mention, they don´t also have credibility in audiophile audience.

Technics SL-1200 has never been known for being the best hi-fi turntable and with their current price tag you can get turntables with better sound quality. The cultural cache that Technics Sl-1200 has does not really expand to hi-fi enthusiasts. If you are listening to Alice Sara Ott, you don´t really care who is Grandmaster Flash or that he used to use exact same turntable. Only people I know that have modified tonearm or power supply in SL-1200 (well-known not particularly good sound quality items in Technics Sl-1200) are old DJ´s. Would not seem that of a stretch for them to acknowledge the DJ heritage but do an improved version for the nostalgic old DJ´s and the DJ-minded audience. I would assume the sales would be better than with the new version.

I am loyal to my Technics Sl-1200 as long as I listen to vinyl, but I would never buy the new SL-1200G. Luckily the thing why DJ´s loved these turntables are that they are almost unbreakable so I don´t really need to acquire new ones.

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Blocking The Ad-Blocking

Ad Blocking is nothing more than someone saying your advertising sucks.

Sharon Napier, Partners & Napier

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans

Ad-blockers are changing the digital advertising landscape drastically. Already quarter of Internet users in US are using ad-blockers and about 50% more is considering to start using them.  If digital advertisers are left with audience who is just incapable of using the ad-blockers, it does not sound like particularly lucrative target audience. We already know that people who are clicking banner ads are not necessarily the sharpest pencils on the drawer. Already in 2011, it was 279.64 more likely that you would climb Mt. Everest and reach the summit than to click a banner ad.

Facebook has started to force ads even if you are using ad blockers in desktop. Publishers are testing different ways to battle ad-blocking. But essentially it will a game of cat and mouse. People have already made their statement: majority of them don´t want to see your spammy ads.

So if you can´t beat em, join em:

  1. Brands should do their own ad-blockers

Maybe Amazon could this. Instead of getting non-relevant harasment, you would get personalized recommendations based on the content you are watching. Essentially Google ad network could already provide some of this level, but many of the advertisers are still quite lazy to utilize all the possibilities. New cognitive ads from Watson could provide interesting alternatives to changing the adspace from intrusion to utility.

It could be also strong statement from brands doing constantly good advertising. For example I would rather see Nike ads all the time than majority of other brands (see D&AD Ad Browser filter)

There are already some ad-blockers who are selling ad space (which sounds a little contradicting, but what the heck). The logic is that you replace the annoying and ugly ads with acceptable and beautiful ads.

  1. Reverse ad-blocker

This could be an interesting art project.

When we are flooded with fake news, actually the ads are only thing we can rely on. So I don´t actually want to block the ads, I want to block the horrible content I waste my time on. Think about it if you could block all the Facebook updates, irrelevant Whatsapp messages and biased online commentary. You would only see the good old marketing communications aimed to make you buy more instead of fake news messing with your head.

Blocking is a part of good defense, but great blockers keep the ball on court.

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