Category Archives: Planning

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.

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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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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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New Social Order: Why Everything You Learned About Social Media is Wrong?

nwo

“Messaging is the new web browser. Everyone has a phone. Everyone has a favourite messaging app on their phone. If your new thing can message people via those apps, then anyone can engage with you.”

Matt McAlister (Guardian) 

Social media has been good to me. I used to work in MySpace in its heyday. I mostly made my name after that doing many succesful Facebook campaigns. I have exploited all the useful social media channels in promoting my books, parties and whatever else I have been doing. Majority of readers to this blog come from Twitter and LinkedIn.

That being said, social media is not what it used to be. It has become big business. It has become boring. It has become predictable. Essentially social media has reached the adulthood.

Marketers took a while to learn the ropes of social media. Now we have to unlearn everything we knew about social media if we want to succeed in the new marketplace:

  1. Social media listening is becoming meaningless

70% of the social discussions cannot be tracked because they happen in ”dark social” e.g. in messenger platforms and to lesser extend e-mail and SMS (older demographics). All the social media listening tools are focusing heavily on Twitter with some Instagram and Facebook mixed in. That is hardly a representative of almost any audience. Social media listening tools focus on Twitter because it is easy to monitor. That is like only doing biceps at the gym, because it is the most convenient movement to do. The reality is that you don´t know what your audience is talking about in digital and most likely will not be able to know in the near future.

Regard social media listening as a pulse (or weak signal) of what is happening, but not the full accurate picture of your audience and what they are talking about. Unless your audience are ”social media gurus” and celebrities.

  1. Engagement with your audience is a myth

Facebook is not social media; it is paid media. There is no organic reach for the brands anymore. You have to approach Facebook with same tools and methods as TV (expect with slightly better targeting opportunities). The most interesting bit about Facebook is the whole ecosystem with WhatsApp, FB Messenger and Instagram. Referring to previous point, we might not know what people are talking on WhatsApp but soon we can target ads based on what they are talking.

Forget always-on, approach Facebook through campaigns. Do less, but bigger things. For smaller things, automate as much as possible.

  1. Chatbots are the magic bullet to bring utility to social and make brands meaningful

The whole digital experience will start to revolve around messengers. The real value brands can bring is not in human relationships, but in human-machine relationships. Community manager –model is not sustainable as it requires actual people running it. Seeing a social post of pizza will not improve your life, but ability to order pizza from the messenger will (or make it worse depending on how many pizzas you eat a week). Conversational commerce will be the biggest opportunity for the brands in the short run to become meaningful in digital sphere.

Define how you can bring value to your audience through messenger with chatbots. Move fast because your competitors are most likely thinking about the same things as well.

  1. Influencers and partnerships are the key to borrow relevance

Ad-blocking is becoming more and more prevalent. Whether your ad is in Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, the default setting for your audience will be to block it. Only way to overcome ad-blocking is Again brands should not play in human-human relationships, but as an enhancer and enabler of star-human relationship. You have to start working with relevant influencers and start creating native content with the relevant media entitities. The answer to ad-blocking is not making better ads, because once you have blocked your ads you will not unblock them just because quality of interruptions has improved.

Go where your audience is and play with their rules.

  1. Forget social media

Like said earlier, the digital behavior will start (has already started) to revolve around messengers. That will be a melting pot of social, mobile and eCommerce and you have to understand that whole melting pot to succeed in the new marketplace. Our audience is not slicing and dicing their life. Messengers are lifeline of their whole existence and there is no boundaries between real-life and digital.

Your audience does not live in silos. You should not select your vendors to specialize in silos either. 

New social order has been here for already quite a while. Is your company ready for it?

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Elevating Everyday Chore to an Experience

Some people say that things don´t make you happy. I say that those people just haven´t yet had good things in their life.

One of the things I have enjoyed the most this year has been my newly acquired straight razor.

bismarck

Why any modern man would need straight razor?

Not for any rational reason and therefore it is just the right item for modern gentleman. When everything is becoming more and more like commodity, the way to differentiate is to make your product less accessible. We are taking so many things granted nowadays because they have been made too easy for us. Mass industry will continue simplifying things further, so we as consumers need to complicate things for ourselves, if we want to regain our appreciation to everyday things.

Here are five pointers you should apply to your own (mundane) product:

1. Create ritual(s) around your product
When shaving with straight razor, you cannot just start shaving. You need to “strop” your knife with leather belt to ensure that your straight razor is sharp. Then you need to soften your skin with hot towel. Lather cream to your face with the badger brush using a circular motion. Use hot towel again and also some expensive after-shave products. What used to be boring forgettable everyday chore is not highlight of the day*. This is a great example of “Ikea effect” when you put disproportionate value to things you have spent time on. I didn´t have any discussions about shaving before, but now my oldschool shaving regime is a conversation topic.

2. Build your own tribe
Before I started this straight razor routine I did not know how much there are information and shaving aficionados in the world. On global scale there are enough specialists to create sustainable business out of everything.

3. Be proudly old-school
My razor is actually a replica of Bismarck razors. The company was founded in 1852. For me vinyl records are the best format for music, not necessarily the most convenient and the effective for music listening. You cannot compare straight razor experience to modern methods on rational terms, because whole idea of using straight razor in 2016 is completely irrational.

4. Make your product hard to acquire
You cannot exactly buy your good straight razors in your local 7-Eleven. I had latently been trying to find a good razor for over a year and then scored one in Gentleman´s store in Amsterdam. Scarce availability makes you appreciate your product even more. The current manufacturer for Bismarck blades, Dovo, is not either that accessible. Their website is only in German and although I technically should understand it, the experience is not as smooth as your everyday Gillette. That is accompanied with only having product information as PDF. Old-school brand should consider do they need new-school website.
 
5. Have sense of danger in your product
Although we don´t need to wrestle lions anymore, it feels quite manly to take care of your beard with weapon that could theoretically kill you. That makes you humble and grateful after every shave.

Sometimes the secret to making your product desirable is to actually make it more complicated and less accessible than the competitors.

*Using straight razor is naturally easier for guys like me who need to only shave once a week. Current beard trend helps also in that you do not be that clean-shaven daily.

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The Referee and The Player: Digital Media´s Dilemma

“We have also been calling for a long time for media owners like Facebook and Google not to mark their own homework and release data to ComScore to enable independent evaluation. The referee and player cannot be the same person.”

– Sir Martin Sorrell (WPP CEO)

The most successful companies of digital age are data companies. The data is their core business, so it is quite understandable they are not particularly keen to share their most valuable asset to third party companies. There is a worry that competitors could get to learn their secrets. The dilemma is that some of the secrets are crucial for business success, but other secrets are quite dirty.

“I don’t lie. I just massage the truth.”

– Jack Donaghy (30 Rock)

Facebook inflated numbers for their videos for over two years. I was not particularly shocked. 56% of display ads are never seen. Majority of the ads that are seen, are not really seen by humans but bots. 100 of millions of people are blocking mobile ads every single day, so you are most likely serving your ads to less digital savvy audience.

Digital advertising has always been prone to fidgeting with numbers. Anyone who has worked in digital media, knows that there are tricks to inflate certain KPIs when your monthly report is due. Companies are not exactly telling lies about their numbers, but they are not telling the whole truth either. Everyone reports their main metrics a little bit differently, so that the numbers match with their sales pitch (not the other way around).

It is not necessarily with everyone interest to have 3rd party assessment for the biggest platforms, but it would definitely help. Other important thing would be to have more unified metrics across the main platforms:

  1. For big reach channels with minimal ad interruption (e.g. Facebook) it should be the average audience in any given minute.
  2. For more interruption and visible formats (e.g. YouTube pre-roll) it should be the time seen and actions taken.
  3. At the end of the day it should always be about the eCommerce sales. Actual transactions are harder to fake with bots and different reporting standards.

It might also be that recent “videogate” does not change anything. The literacy for marketers regarding numbers and data is unfortunately still quite low.

“The issue is being hugely overblown. Marketers do not care about it, and it has zero impact on spend.”

Jason Stein (Laundry Service CEO)

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Ruining The User Experience at The Last Mile

Even some of the best web services fail with the last mile. It took minutes for me to fulfill all the password requirements for this web service:

password

The whole process with the passwords is unsatisfying at best and downright painful at worst (like in the example stated below). The passwords in general are not safe and the whole idea of doing a random list of characters, numbers mixed with upper and lower case is quite outdated. It is more annoyance than something that truly improves your security.

If even Edward Snowden is advocating passphrases, I would recommend majority of web services to change their password policies to favor passphrases (e.g. icanuse4wordsbaby instead of tRes4$Ce). It would improve both security and user experience. And as a user you would also remember your passwords better.

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Show That You Care and Don´t Screw Up

If waiter repeats customer´s order, he is more likely to get a tip. Just by repeating order, 78% gave tip compared to 52% when waiter just confirmed the order. It is a simple thing, but how many waiters really do it?  It is also good rule to live by every time you are serving customers. You need empathy but you need to deliver as well.

Show that you care
People love their own words and decisions. Repeating the order confirms that you have done the right decision. Customers will experience sameness with the servers, like them more and will leave bigger tips.

Don´t screw up
When waiter repeats the order, there are higher likelihood that the order will be right. By doing something that showcases interest of your customer´s needs, you are also securing your own back.

It is win-win situation: you appreciate the customer and same time you minimize your probability of doing mistake. In Singapore context though, I don´t know what would be the result on tip when waiter repeats your order but is still able to mess it up.

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Never Think Outside The Box

One of the most annoying cliches in advertising is the”thinking outside the box”. This term is usually used by people, who are not usually known for their thinking at the first place. ”Thinking outside the box” means totally useless brainstorming for hours and random ideas you cannot use anywhere.

Not too fond of brainstorming either. Workshops have to be very tightly defined and organized to be useful. Instead of huge committee circle-jerking half-boiled ideas, it is usually more productive to force people to write ideas alone.

The first problem is not that we don´t think outside the box, it is that majority of people don´t think, period.

Second problem is that we just don´t know what our box is.

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Auftragstaktik and The Lack of Leadership in Advertising Industry

“No plan survives contact with enemy”
– Helmut von Moltke
 
I have met great people, personalities and borderline geniuses during my years in advertising. What have I encountered less is good leaders and visionary leadership.

The biggest problem in advertising industry is leadership problem. Majority of us (me included) have been promoted because we are great experts. We are good strategists, writers or suits but majority don´t have any experience or natural skills to lead or inspire teams. I would argue also that the major reason for churn in ad agencies is due to bad management and lack vision and strategic vigor. When you don´t have the vision you end up doing things yourself or micro-managing your team which naturally annoys any sensible person.

Because majority of leaders are former experts, only few can do the leap to strategic level from tactical grunt work. Contrary to the stereotypes, the right leadership approach to creative industries can be found from military strategy and of all places in usually rigid and authoritarian Germany. “Auftragstaktik” or Mission command in US, is a mission-type tactics doctrine, which promotes freedom and speed of action within defined constraints. The idea of Auftragstaktik originates with Frederick the Great, who was frustrated by the lack of initiative within his leaders. Military strategist Helmut von Moltke coined the actual idea hundred years later (whose quote above is one of the best articulations of strategy). Currently similar types of command are advocated in US, Canadian, Dutch and British armies. The basic idea of Augftagstaktik is simple:

  1. Leaders give the team clearly defined goal
  2. Leader gives the team specific timeframe to accomplish that goal
  3. Leader lets them accomplish that goal independently

Essentially in Auftragstik you say your team what you want them to achieve but you are not saying how they can achieve that. This should result to two benefits:

  1. The team has the ownership and pride of the particular project. They will become better at solving problems and you also cultivate future leaders. They are closer to the project/actual fight so they should do their decisions where things are actually happening.
  2. The leader frees his/her time from tactics and keeps focused on the broader strategy. The leader should have better visibility of business/the war so he/she should be able to show guidance and vision to the team.

If you cannot give responsibility to your team and don´t trust them, you have either made bad hires or you are control freak. Both things are naturally highly worrying. If your leadership is diluted to micro managing you do more harm than good in your company. Then your choices are either to evolve from manager to true leader by trusting your team or you just have to face the reality that you are not cut as a leader at the first place.

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