Monthly Archives: July 2012

Is Facebook Just a Bubble?

Facebook stock hit the new low last Thursday after Q2 results were revealed. Also closely linked to Facebook, game-maker Zynga has lost over 40% of its value. These stock falls have raised feelings of déjà vu  in investors of the merry days of the dot-com buble. Are we facing the sequel: Social-Media Bubble-Revenge of Stock Plummet?
I believe not, based on the following reasons:

What separates Facebook from the failed IT-bubble companies?

1. People: With the expection of the Great China Firewall, Facebook has conquered the world. Over 900 million users would make it the third biggest country in the world. Numbers are great, but over 500 million active users also prove that Facebook has become much more. It is incremental part of the behavior of the people and increasing number of people have developed Facebook a daily (even hourly or constant) habit. And we all know how hard the sticky habits are to break. Also we from the industry are naturally calculating Facebook profits all the time, but average user could not care about less how Facebook ad sales are going. Of course on the long run the financial performance and user satisfaction should be inseparable, but it is easier to tweak on your business model when you have the people already using your network than other way around.
2. Profits: Despite making loss in the latest quarter, the revenues of Facebook actually beat the industry estimates. Also Facebook has already been profitable many quarters before. This is a proof that their business model works, at least to some extend. That could be hardly said from many other failed Internet-companies.
3. Potential: Google has struggled with social: whether it is Google+ or making YouTube profitable. Apple has had Midas touch in everything… expect social. That is why they allegedly have talks with Twitter. Facebook has been the only company to really capitalize and succeed with social. This has made it as one of the key players in the battle of Internet domination (other participants in the ring: Apple, Google & Amazon).

So comparisons with the high-flying and crash-landing dotcom rockets to the new big blue are unjust. They pretty much had only potential, but neither the users nor the viable business model. Facebook is not a bubble, but that does not mean that it does not have certain serious challenges. The future success of Facebook lies in how it can solve the following issues:

1. Advertising revolution: The advertising model of Facebook is based on really traditional online media sales and the effectiveness has been questionable. Sometimes it feels that only drunk people click on the Facebook ads. The new ad units have been disappointing at best and almost disastrous at worst (ie. Facebook deals). Facebook has to find a way to get people to see and engage with ads when and where they want to actually see them. Google cracked this and it has been the core reason for its success. Until now Facebook has just poorly emulated Google with a mix of traditional display, with average results.
2. Going beyond advertising: The information of Facebook 900+ million users is a goldmine. There just should be a way to utilize it better. Currently the revenues beyond ad sales have been quite modest. This also raises the controversial question which Facebook has actively been avoiding. Could users pay for Facebook? And how much would they pay for it and for what elements? There is thin line between the effective utilization of user data and the utter exploitation of it. If you do the latter, the deliquate trust between the service and users has been ruined forever.
3. Mobile: Future of Internet is the Mobile. And Facebook damn well knows it, with over 500+ million mobile users. As smartphone will be the computer of the new generation, it needs more innovative and effective mobile solutions than just sponsored stories in mobile (although they have been performing above average). The rumoured Facebook phone is step to the right direction, but just one of the first steps into the mobile world.

“Facebook is not a bubble, but it has not reached its full potential either”

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Digital is Air

It is quite sad that agencies are still strugling heavily with their digital output and integration. We are not really talking about new things here. Digital has already been around for quite a long and we have had time to adjust. While agencies have been lost with, real people have been happily and easily adopted the new digital tool.

Nowadays, digital is like air to them.

It is natural: Consumers have already adopted the digital channels. They have made the unconscious selection to live digital life. The digital excellence should come with same ease in the agencies. The people are not strugling with digital, companies are. If you have to think about digital all the time, you are really missing the point. It is already a habitual part of life. The same way it should be habitual part of agency.
It is necessarity: If you do not have air you will die. The same is the way with the companies. For majority of companies the digital strategy is totally same as their overall strategy. Therefore, it is insanity to separate these two. If your business is not yet in digital, there is a good opportunity for your company to do it.

Air also flows freely. That is why there should not be different silos in the agencies. Digital department should be every department. The steps for the future success are simple:

1. Break the silos.
2. Get digital natives on board. Get rid of the opposing old baggage if necessary.
3. Fully integrated or die.

“Digital should flow freely and be a habitual part of the agency”

Is Creative Advertising also Effective?

Simple answer to simple question:

Yes.

Great presentation deck on the subject from James Hurman:

The Case for Creativity

View more presentations from James Hurman
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Advertising Should Just Aim for the Popularity

To say that people hate advertisements is a vast overstatement.

The truth is that most people just don´t care about them. Most advertising is just interruption at best and invisible at worst. Occassionally some good piece of communication fells through the cracks and people start talking about them. Those ads have made the giant leap from ads to entertainment.

What combines these highly succesful, innovative and effective ads? Where you push button to add drama? Where Eminem drives Chrysler in Detroit? Where you start thinking about the benefits of birth-control? Or where hamsters jam to the sounds of nineties hiphop in Hamsterdam?

They are all popular.

People do not even judge these ads in same category as your everyday washing liquid infomercial. They are entertainment. People do not talk about how the ad skillfully manifests the strategy and touches the nerve of certain target demography. Or how it really captures effectively the brand´s tone-of-voice, communication ladder and is on brief. They talk about funny ads, emotional ads, witty ads. Even really shit ads. They talk about work which stands out of the pack and makes them feel or act.

When you say that you work in advertising, people usually start to talk about ads to you. Usually they mock the horrible ads which have been repeated until the boredom. However, the best feeling is when person starts talking about ad that has touched him or her. And you realize you have been doing that particular piece of communication.

Even though people seldom talk about ads in watercooler, it does not mean that ads do not belong there. After all, we are working in the only creative field which should be populist by nature. There is no underground culture in advertising. Even with smaller demographics, we are still talking about mainstream-size audiences. So as we advertisers drink from the well of popular culture, we should also make sure that we do not piss in it as well.

That is why the role of advertisement is simple:

Advertising should make brands popular.

Relevant popularity or even outright populism includes all the relevant definitions of the advertising. It lowers the cost of selling. It makes the product desirable. It gets recommended. It differentiates. It wins awards. It sells. It strengthens the brand.

To make people talk about your brand, product or advertisement you have to think in terms of entertaining. Entertaining is the hardest but the most satisfying job in the world. Are we able to take the task? And make entertainment that urges people to action.

You have to make your advertising a hot topic around the watercooler.

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How to Come up with Ideas? Prt.2-Structure for the Chaos

Compared with many other planners, I have been doing quite a lot of concept work. First, because I have been working in quite agile agencies with not too narrowly defined roles. Second, I belive strongly that planner has to be able bring views and ideas to actual creative product(like everyone else working in agency).Especially if you are stand-up strategist instead of desktop one.
The following list is based on those concepting work sessions I have had over the years. This presents more of the ideal state of ideation process. Many times it is not as structured, but especially when working with tight pressure and deadlines this framework has helped me to concentrate on the most essential parts when coming up with ideas.

Ten Steps to Good Ideas

1.Write rough ideas
This is just letting off steam and make your subconscious work around the problem. Jotting down every possible idea that comes in your mind for around 15 minutes is great excercise for getting the creative juices flowing and also removing the barriers. Usually 95% of ideas generated in this phase are useless, but sometimes intuition might present us the best solution.

Duration: 15 minutes

2. Going through the creative brief, strategy & background material
To simplify this example, let´s assume that the client brief is quite on-point and the strategy is quite settled at this point. The more urgent the project is, the less time you can spend on this. Usually with bigger pitches and projects, you are able to do quite thorough deep-dive to the subject. Sometimes with tight deadline, you pretty much have to trust your own intuition, experience and point of view.

Duration: From none up to weeks depending on the project scope.

3. First idea meeting: Kicking around the business problem
It is always crucial to really ponder on about what is the business problem we are facing and how we will address it. This phase is really important, because it usually gives lots of ideas which are not straight-up advertising solutions. Usually after this session the strategy will also be refined, because everyone has come up with their valuable views on the greatest challenges our client company is facing.

Task for the team(s) before: Everyone has identified their major concerns in the case & their views on business problem.

Duration:2-4 hours

4. Second idea meeting: Kicking around ideas
Many times team jumps to this phase, but have not really done enough background work. This results in superficial ideas, which are not really solutions to the problem. With careful consideration to the steps 1-3, this will be one of the most beneficial parts of the ideation progress. Still during this phase the main emphasis is to come up with more creative quantity than sophisticated quality. These sessions are more brainstorming and the initial killing and selection of the ideas will be preferably done in separate session.

Task for the team(s) before: Everyone has prepared their own ideas (either individually or with their working partner). In the most ideal case, people have had at least couple of full days to come up with those ideas.

Duration: 2-4 hours (preferably two sessions)

5. Start killing & promoting ideas
– Are they on brief?
– Are they relevant?
– Does it make me feel?
– Does it make me act?
– Is it effective?
– Is it groundbreaking?

These are some of the questions you should be asking at this phase. If answers are no, consider ideas killed.

Duration: Couple of hours

6. Separate ideas so strong that are concepts
We have already separated the good ideas, now it is important to find out which of them have proper depth and leverage to be concepts. I wrote about the definition of concept last week. It is important to have good one-off ideas still on this phase, because they can actually make certain concepts more thorough when combined.

Duration: Several hours in conjuction with the part seven and eight.

7. Select the strongest concept(s)
One is sometimes enough, but more is preferable.

8. Refine the concepts
No shortcut with this: Revisions, rewrites, re-layouts and prototypes. This part is highly focused on perspiration abilities instead of inspiration.

Duration: Till infinity

9. Select presentation strategy
Do we present one strategy and many concepts?
Do we only present one strategy and one concept?
Do we present different strategies and different concepts?

Besides thinking the strategy for our customer, we always have to think about our internal strategy: how we grow this clientship and how we can producce as much good and effective work to them as possible. Some people are fixated about presenting only one concept at time and some people want to always have more. I think the amount of concepts in presentation is quite secondary, the most important thing is to concentrate on what is the best way to sell the project. Other important guideline is the following:

“Never present crap”

Never present “safe alternative”, which you do not truly believe. The result is always that the “safe alternative” will be selected and you end up being ashamed of the final output. You can present hundreds of concepts if they are really good. However, if you present one good concept and two weak ones, you have been presenting two too much.

10. Craft the presentation
Many people spend long time just watching the powerpoint or keynote and trying to solve the problem and come up with ideas while they are making slides. I believe the best results come when you have the whole plot of the presentation already planned and making the powerpoint is more of a mechanical task. I have also met with people, who are really able to think within powerpoint, but I am not one of them.

And finally the most important one:

Avoid the work as much possible.
I believe in effective, but relatively short planning sessions.
Sometimes it might be beneficial that the team goes for different place outside the office to do the ideation work (more on this in later part of this series), but overall I am not big fan of spending the whole day in the same meeting room trying to force the ideas. Especially when they are not coming.
No matter how tight deadline you might have, the trick is trying to maximize the idle time when you are not actively pursuing the problem. This way you are still subconsciously working on the problem. There are different methods to help this idle processing and they vary for different people. For example I usually get best ideas when I am jogging.
After certain period, you just start to come up with new ideas all the time. The most important thing is to remember to keep your notepad within. More about these methods in the next part of this series.

Although there is ten steps in this ideation progress, it might be done quite fast if the deadline is thight. In principle this whole 10-step thing can be done during one really long day. Of course the best results come when you have more time. It is about finding the balance between meeting deadlines and coming up with groundbreaking ideas.

“With proper structure for coming up with ideas, you release more time for chaos”

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What Vampire-Hunting Abraham Lincoln Can Teach Us about Modern Marketing?

History prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to wild deeds.
– Abraham Lincoln (on the film Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter)

I saw Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter yesterday (Yes, I watch lot of movies).
And actually I quite liked it (And yes, I have a soft-spot for trashy b-movies).

Instead of the film, I was actually more impressed about the whole phenomenon. Originally a best-selling novel released in 2010, there is lots to learn about this unlikely pairing of bloodsuckers and American President with an axe:

1. We live in age of mash-ups
Whether it is combining Pinterest with Facebook timeline. Or putting up vocals of Will Smith over old philly disco track. The major skill is nowadays to combine existing elements and come up with something exciting from them. Advertising has traditionally been good at combining popular culture phenomenon with business objectives. In the digital age, those connections just have to be faster and more innovative.

2. Great stories are always in high demand
Everyone is familiar with the basic myth of blood-sucking, silver-fearing, shadowless and pale vampires. And hopefully nearly everyone knows also the basic history of Abraham Lincoln. By utilizing these two familiar stories, you ensure that people have enough common touchpoints in the story to identify with. Creating a totally new character or a brand requires much effort: especially time and money. That is the reason why Hollywood is so keen to revisit the same superhero stories all over again. Or why the companies revisit old brands or ads. Old connection is easier to bring back than to create totally new connection.

3. You have to recognize the potential and take risks
Apparently the writer Seth Grahame-Smith saw that there were two kinds of books in bestselling lists during the time he started writing the book: Abraham Lincoln autobiographies and vampire novels (mainly the Twilight-series). This is just really simple yet totally brilliant business thinking. Have two proven target groups, combine them and see how it will turn out. And actually Grahame-Smith had already done even more unconventional pairing before Abraham Lincoln-book. On his book “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” he marred Jane Austen with zombies. Needless to say, that book was bestseller as well.

The movie itself has done modestly: gathering about half of the estimated production budget in US box office.If the film will not be success when international screenings are counted in as well, there is still one thing left learn from this:

“Past success does not predit your future success at all”

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The Seven Characteristics of the Great Concept

I think many advertising problems are mainly problems on having a common language.

People talk about same terms, but everyone has a different meaning attached to them. The most alerting situation is when there is not an unified vision of the most basic advertising terms within the agency. When people do not share the same ideals while speaking about strategy, concept, insight & idea, you end up doing disoriented work. That work does not answer business problems and it does not touch the target audience in relevant ways. I think one of the most misused terms is concept, so I wanted to share my views about that particular term.

The Seven Characteristicts of the Great Concept

1. There should not be ever such thing as a bad concept.
I believe in quantity when it comes to ideas. I rather come up with 999 ideas to be happy with the one brilliant one, instead of doing five rather good ones. The concept is build on the great ideas. And upon the killed ones at well. When you are moving from ideas to concepting phase, you should not be medling anymore in mediocrity. That should be scrapped along the process. Bad ideas might help to make good concept, but you cannot turn bad concept into a good one. Be ruthless when evaluating which makes concept.

2. The concept is integrated by nature.
TV ad is not a concept. Website is not a concept. Funny stunt is not a concept. Still I bet that everyone has encountered (or even provided) ideas, which might be fairly good ads but could not be leveraged to work properly and fluently across all the channels. If someone says: “We have a good concept, but it does not turn to mobile/tv/internet/outdoor/inset whatever channel here”, you really do not have a good concept. Good concepts rise above the media channels. In good concepts all the touchpoints work together to build the greater campaign. So even though coming up great concepts is hard work, the executions in different touchpoints should come quite effortlessly.
There is always a need for great conceptual thinkers in this industry. That conceptual thinking ability is what separates the truly great from a mere wordsmith or visualist.

3. The concept has potential to live long.
We live in fast world, which is just getting faster everyday. Even the really brilliant concepts have less time in market than before. However, with good concepts you sense the potential that it is more than just an one-off. You can see the opportunities to carry and nurture it for years and years to the future. The common mistake is to change winning concept too fast. Brand representatives and advertising agencies get tired of the concepts more faster than general public does. Many times you see that fully functioning concept has been replaced with a new mediocre one, just for the sake of it being new. New is not always equivalent for better.

4. Concept fullfills strategy.
Strategy is about identifying the most pressing business problem/opportunity for the customer and finding the most straightforward answer to it. Concept is the creative path to the consumer mind, action & wallet fulfilling that strategy. If strategy is wrong, you will not be able to come up with great concepts. That is why agency should really spend more time kicking around the customer´s main business problem (and not just just planning department). Whole team has to believe the strategy and be behind it. If there is reason of doubt or resistance among the team, the end-result will again be a lackluster campaign.

5. The concept is scalable & flexible.
Because of the channel-agnostic nature of great concepts, you have much more flexibility in terms of production. You get better results with an excellent concept under tight budget, compared with mediocre concept pumped up with big production money. The scalability goes other way as well, the more resources you can put into concept the better it gets.

6. Great concept pushes the envelope

You have to fight for the great concept within the agency and with your client. Mediocre and small-minded people will always try to find reasons to prevent groundbreaking and highly effective work to come out. Good concept pushes the boundaries and goes against the category conventions. This does not necessarily mean controversial work, but if your concept is not highly differentiating, it will not work.

7. Great concept is simple at its core
No matter how complicated or how many phases in the initial campaign will be, the core of the great concept is usually explained easily in a couple of sentences. The answers to questions “Why” and “What” should be as simple as possible, the “How” might be more pages or presentations. The craftmanship, rigor and the time invested to actual production based on that brilliant simplicity will make miracles. There is no shortcut for perfection and many times the final extra mile makes all the difference.

“When working in agency, we have to speak the same language both inside and to outside as well”

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Kicking the Habit: Five Tips to Capture the Habitual Shopper

“We knew that if we could identify them (pregnant women) in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years”
-Andrew Pole, statistician (Target)

One of the most thought-provoking articles I have read this year  was “How Companies Lean Your Secrets” by Charles Duhigg. Besides that it is quite unbelievable feat that you can actually track from data when your customer is in her second trimester, it had me also to think about power of habit and habitual purchases. When our conscious thinking and habits collide, usually the habit will win. Just ask anyone trying to stop smoking!

We, consumers, do not spend enourmous amount of brainpower to make everyday buying decisions. When we stroll in the aisles in our grocery store and pack our shopping carts, we usually think totally other things. We are guided by certain buying rules and only thing which might change our shopping behavior is that certain product is over. Especially when working with FMCG, the habitual buying processes are something which you cannot ignore when crafting your marketing strategy and tactics.

Five Tips to Capture the Habitual Shopper

1. Identify the habitual cues
Although consumer might shop in autopilot mode and does not really think about what he is buying, he is guided with certain habitual cues to make his selection. Certain people might make their selection based on price, others with brand and others just to minimize their walking in the store. Nielsen gives following examples of common Omega Rules:

“I always buy brand X …unless guests are coming!”
“I buy the cheapest brand on special, as long as it’s not X!”
“Brand X works for my family, but if Y is on special, I buy that!”

It is crucial to identify what is your product´s main habitual cues and rules of buying. Because if it is mainly price, even a slightest price increase might make your customer think other alternatives. And if it is not, you actually have a good opportunity to raise prices and customer will continue business as usual.

2. Avoid making the customer think during the autopilot phase.
Advertising might even be countereffective, when dealing with habitual shoppers. When customer starts to think actively about your category, he starts to also think about the competitors as well. To simplify things: if you are market leader in your category you should try to actively encourage the autopilot. If you are challenger you should try to disrupt the habitual buying process. Also advertising is crucial for the new products, because only way besides price-dumping is to get people to interested about it and buy it because of the buzz.

3. Identify the events when the habits change
Why Target is so interested about the state of pregnancy of their customers? Within certain life events, even the most permanent habits of people might change. For example these events can be the following (but not limited to): moving, having a child, changing job, getting married or divorced. Not surprisingly these are also the most stressing moments of your life. Although you have decided that you never change your morning cereal brand, when encountering above-mentioned changes, it might not be that big deal anymore.

4. Remember that customer is not always in autopilot
Consumer might be totally different shopper during weekdays compared to weekends. On weekdays we stroll like zombies trying to get our shopping done as fast as possible, but when saturday comes we might be actually seeking variety and inspiration within the same aisles. Some might also say that finding something new is also habitual behavior for humans. There are at least the following motivational segments when buying:

Bargain: You are looking for the best deal. (The weapon of choice: Discounts)
Buzz: You are excited to find certain product because of the recommendation, advertising, product placement or news mention. (The weapon of choice: In-store promotion to ensure that the first buzz does not die off)
Variety-seeking: You are actively looking for new experiences. (The weapon of choice: Trials in the store)

Important to notice is that people might shift through these different motivational ways. Also your product can be bought from many motivational standpoints. It is essential to find the main motivational cue for majority of your customers.

5. Customer satisfaction does not mean a thing for habitual purchases.
Average customer satisfaction is usually 75-85 on the scale of 100. Company might think that they are scoring well, but actually that result is just average. Other shocking statistic is that customer satisfaction explains only 8% of repurchase*. With mundane every day products, when conducting a customer satisfaction survey you actually trigger totally artificial thought process. Consumer starts to rationalize his habitual shopping behavior and basically just starts lying.

So habits are strong factor of our buying behavior. If you do not recognize that, you might do fatal mistakes as a marketer.

Recommended reading
Charles Duhigg: The Power Of Habit
Neale Martin: Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore*
Nielsen Deltaqual

“Recognize and leverage the power of habit and identify the opportunities to try to alter it”

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Craft Your Presentation like a FBI Interrogation

I first stumbled on to Reid interrogation technique in Jo Nesbø´s book Headhunters, which gave the impression that this method is also used in job interviews. The technique is originally used in interrogations and is widely applied in North America with different law-enforcement agencies, such as FBI. The technique caught my eye immediately and I have been toying with an idea to utilize it in sales presentations.

As the Reid technique is registered trademark and actually much more than just the nine-step interrogation technique and all I have learned about it is from the Norwegian detective novels (Nesbø actually mentioned it in one other of his novels as well), you should take the following nine steps with a pinch of salt. However I still think there are some valuable lessons to be used in your presentations and sales pitches:

Nine steps of persuading presentation

1. Start with the Direct Confrontation
When you start your presentaion, go straight to the point. Explain candidly the problems your potential clients are facing. Be straight and frank about it, do not sugarcoat it.
2. Symphatize with the Client
When you have gotten the attention by telling how screwed they are, soften your tone. Show that you understand the situation, address the challenges and express sympathy. You are there to help them out from the trouble.
3. Discourage Denying the Problems
In the Reid method, this step is ensuring that the suspect does not say many times “I don´t do it”, because more you say it more you start to believe it. So when presenting the problems there is only “bad cop”-mode in presentation.
4. Anticipate the Counterarguments
When presenting a bold choices, first reaction is usually denial and many counterarguments will follow. Be prepared to answer them. When you are answering the hardest counter-arguments before they get to even asked in your presentation, you are making the opponent armless.
5. Reinforce Sincerity
After this, it is again time to play good cop. Express sympathy for the situation and ensure that there is a way out of it.
6. Move the Discussion to Presenting the Alternatives
Usually at this point the audience will become quieter and listen. You have proved that you have done your homework. If you have been persuasive enough, they want to really know how can you help them out their mess. It it is time to present your solution.
7. Present Two Alternatives.
You present two choices, other one which is more socially acceptible. The potential client is likely to select that easier alternative.  The end-result is the same in both of them: you start your collaboration with the potential client. Of course the client has always the third option, which is not to to select you. Or in the interrogation that he is denying guilt. That third alternative is something which you try to actively make obsolete during your presentation.
8. Get Public Approval
If you have gone according the steps, you are almost closing the deal. Now you should aim to get public approval of your strategy and solution from the highest-ranking client in the room. This might be quite tricky in actual pitch presentation, but you should at least get certain points which are publicly approved. This will help the further negotiations and set the right tone in them.
9. Document the Approval Immediately
If you are ballsy enough, after getting the public approval, you should have the actual contract with you and hand it over to the potential clients and to get it signed. Good luck with that.

As a disclaimer, the Reid technique is prohibited in several European countries because it has said to produce too many false confessions. So try this at your own peril. Also if you try it to someone who knows it, there are certain ways to attack these steps as well.

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How to Come up with Ideas? Prt.1-Food For Thought

Disclaimer: I have no idea (no pun intented), do the following methods help to actually get the ideas or insights. At least they seem to work for me. Also, this is somewhat representation of the ideal world. I have never really enough time to read all the books, magazines & websites I intend to. But I surely try to.

I think coming up with ideas and insights is mostly hard work. Writing them down, bouncing them with the team and killin the not-so-good-ones. That is why I also do not really believe in being inspired when coming up with ideas. It of course helps. You might wait whole your life of inspiration and watch as the deadlines pass by. There is no shortcut for perspiration.

I am more of a believer of being in a state of constant inspiration all the time. This is achieved by the following method:

1. Mental Scrapbook: Picking things constantly at random
I do not even know all that I don´t know. That is why I really believe in constant idea gathering. You just observe, read and pick things at random all the time. Do not stress about how useful they are, just round yourself with different ideas. They might or might not become handy later on:

a) Internet
For gathering food for thought for ideas in Internet, I rely on social media:
1) Facebook: What is really popular?
Besides I think Facebook is the pulse of what is really happening on the Internet. What news start to catch on? What videos are hot? What topics are people discussion on? Also knowing most of the people, you can socially filter the content: why this people share this and may be. Also it is always great to just spy on your old friends.
2) Twitter: What is popular in professional circles?
I follow mainly Twitter accounts, which are somehow connected to my professional life (and couple of rap artists). Through this channel you encounter ideas from places you are not that used to and which you are not yet familiar.
3) Google reader: The thinkers I want to follow
Some have said that blogs are dead, but those who say that are dead wrong. The sheer volume of blogs I actively follow has probably reduced during the years. The quality on the other hand has increased. Coming up with a blog post of a good thinking is a respectable feat and if done well, it beats 140 characters any time. Good blog post is also timeless. That is why I do not stress if I have not for some reason gone through my blogroll for a while.
4) Writing blog: Testing out ideas
I learn by writing. That is the most important reason for me to blog. This is the litmus test for the ideas. If some of the ideas spark a discussion, it is just an added bonus.
5) Bookmarking: Making an idea scrapbook
If I encounter something interesting I bookmark it. I use del.ici.ous, mainly because I have gotten accustomed to it. In there I have just lots of odd stuff, which might become useful some day.

b) Other reading
1. Books
I have always at least three books going on and it is very rare that I don´t finish a book (with the expection of Ulysses, which nearly ruined one of my summer holiday). Depending on the time, the finishing of the book might take a day or month. I usually only read books when I commute or have to wait for a long time somewhere.
I use libraries quite a lot, because it is great place to find great books which you would not read otherwise. I just pick up books with interesting names, covers and blurps. Sometimes they are great, sometimes horrible. However, I really have not read so bad book that I have not learned anything from it.
For the three books I try to have a healthy balance of different content:
a) Professional: Just opened Del Breckenfeld: The Cool Factor, a book about partnership marketing.
b) Non-fictional (but non-professional): As a big fan of 30 Rock, I am currently reading Tina Fey´s Bossypants.
c) Fictional: Trying to test out Singaporean literature, I started out easily with Singaporean detective story:Shamini Flint-Inspector Singh Investigates: The Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder

I think the biggest mistake many professionals do is to read too little of fiction books. Mediocre fiction beats good business book.

2.Magazines
I read couple of magazines frequently (VF, New Yorker, Fast Company), but try to grab occassionally pretty much everything I see. For example, when I go to the barbershop, I always check out Cosmopolitan and other women´s magazines. Other thing which I always try to do is to read all the stories cover-to-backcover in certain magazine. This way you encounter stuff you would not necessarily choose to pick if you would choose it yourself.

d) News
I read newspaper every morning. I know it is old-school. That is usually enough to know what is happening in the world so that you do not appear stupid during the day and you do not have to spend time during the day to follow all the news in Internet news channels. Usually if something major happens during the day you will see it in social media.

e) Other popular culture
Actually the same process that goes to the books applies to movies, music and other things. I try watch the most popular movies, just to understand what makes people tick. Then you just try learn from the experience. And enjoy it as well. Although the enjoying bit is easier for me with the new Superhero-movies than for example Twilight-series. Other than the smash-hits, movie or music festivals are great way to get yourself familiar with the more obscure art. For example there is Japanese Film Festival going on here and I would haven´t probably see those movies anywhere else.

f) Personal talks
I think one of the hardest thing about ageing is that you do not get to see as much new people as you used to be. Especially being in the same place for a long time, you end up spending your time with the same people all the time. That is good to move once in a while, so that you are forced to meet new people.

g) Travelling & observing
It is easy to pick things at random when you are in totally new place. The skill is to find something new and worthwhile in the place you are staying for a long time. It is so easy to just fell on the certain routines. My noble goal is that whenever I am, I try to test something new every week. Currently it has been really easy, because I have been in Singapore only couple of months.

2. Building up specialty: Frequent deep-dives

With couple of topics I tend to go deeper and also frequently and actively search the information about it. Those topics include such as social media (professional) & hiphop-music (non-professional). I think the main difference with frequent deep-dives and random idea gathering, is that former is more conscious effort and the other just happens more organically.

3. Hitman-for-hire: Case-specific deep-dives

When I start working with a new client, project or am working with the pitch for a new client, I usually follow the following steps to gather food-for-thought for ideation process.
a) Search of your mental scrapbook
I first go by all the material from the category, brand, company and product which I have already encountered: all the books, bookmarks, magazine stories, discussions and such. This provides the backbone of where I continue my search further.
b) Specified reading
After going through the mental scrapbook, I dive deeper to the subject.  I try to read at least couple of the highly-regarded books and industry magazines about the subject to get on the right mood.
c) Industry outreach
Picture might worth a thousand words, but a good discussion is worth probably a million. Try to spend as much time with the client as possible. Meet people from the same category, client´s customers and people from the target audience. Try to pick them brain as effectively as possible.
d) Observe the marketplace
Especially with FMCG gategory, I try to spend as much time as possible in different retail stores packing that brand or competitor´s product as possible. By observing actually shopping behavior you learn so much.
e) Use the product
With B2B-category this might be trickier and there might be certain limitations with other products as well. You should still try to immerse yourself with the product in question as deep as possible. And again I cannot stress the importance of talking with the target audience and the actual users of the product.

On the next part, I will reveal the “process” of the actual ideation process when I am working with the tight deadline.

Inspiration is hard to come by when you are forced to, that´s why you should try be in a state of constant inspiration by randomly stumbling on interesting things.

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