Thursday 19 December 2013

Ranting about Ratings

Tearing opening an amazon package in the rush to get my presents all packed up in time, I noticed a request to "rate this packaging", directing me to both the UK and German amazon sites. Just out of interest, I typed in the link and left some ratings as to the size, adequacy and ease of opening of the packaging.

It's not just amazon who bother you for ratings - of the item itself, the seller, the packaging. All around airports, stations and other public places, neon smilies await your rating of the "toilet experience" or similar. I don't usually bother as these rarely allow you to clarify, justify or explain your rating - which can't be very helpful if a problem arises.

I can take all this rating business as long as it's about practical, factual stuff. Difficult packaging or dirty toilets are much the same to all of us. But once we get into the area of personal opinion, it gets difficult. I have written reviews on amazon for years, for books mostly, and I still feel uneasy about giving out stars. Quite frankly, I'd much rather just write a review of the book. But the trend is going such that the stars and ratings and averages are becoming far more important than what people actually think or feel.

It's the same in marketing. There is a growing tendency for KPIs to become goals or objectives in themselves. It becomes more important to achieve a certain score on some numerical indicator than to work out what we want to do with our brand. "Make our brand famous" is, for me, a valid objective. How you measure that, if you can, is another question.

I see too much application of positivism in marketing, with the misconception that what can be measured must be important and what can't, isn't.

There was only one star that the wise men followed that first Christmas, but it was a good one.

Friday 13 December 2013

Brand Bauble?

Bored of Brand Onions? Peed off with Positioning? Miserable about Missions?

Then look no further than this wonderful seasonal antidote to Marketing blah-blah, The *Santa* Brand Book, from Quiet Room.

My favourite pages are the one that discovers that Hagrid is encroaching on *Santa*'s space, based on the dimensions of fattiness and beardiness. And the instructions, with example, in "How to deploy language in the customer relationship."

A couple of choice quotes:

*Santa* - the industry standard for child-cenric gift-delivery solutions


Our brand essence is the very essence of our brand

Ho, ho, ho!

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Bright sparks

Brand models have their uses. It's good for everyone working with a brand to know what it stands for, long-term. But I have always felt that most models lack dynamism and energy. They are usually something two-dimensional on a piece of paper, with lots of words that have been carefully honed and slaved-over. When I worked on the agency side, it was difficult to take a client model and develop creative work from it that was stunning, brilliant, breath-taking - and relevant.

Quite often the breath-takingness would come from somewhere external - a clever film technique, an audacious topical joke, some cute furry creatures. Mainly because the agency wouldn't know where to start. Yes, this is your brand positioning for the next five decades, but what is it that we want to focus on right now?

I recently dug out a paper I wrote twenty years ago at Saatchis which proposed a way of thinking about people and brands and the energy that connects them. I found that I still go back to this again and again:

* a brand has many properties
* a group of consumers may have a variety of human motivations or desired end benefits
* one brand detonator can deliver the energy from the brand to consumers to achieve the desired end benefits - this energy is produced when the the brand and user come into contact and, once experienced, it acts like a magnet to draw the two together.

This "spark" should be the basis of the communications proposition.

So, it comes back to overlap and connection. What are all the properties of the brand? Everything from character to physical attributes? What is the user focused on? Wants, needs, desires, motivations?

And what's the connection? Find it and push to detonate.

Friday 6 December 2013

Build me a Bridge

It seems to be OK, even admirable these days to say you were useless at maths at school. Well, I wasn't. I was good at maths, although I couldn't add up without counting on my fingers or scribbling on paper so maybe my mental arithmetic wasn't so hot. But when it came to algebra and that sort of thing, my strategy was always to go back to first principles - what are we trying to do here?

It's worth doing the same these days in my job, as marketing communications becomes an ever more complex field. I do sometimes need to remind myself about what strategy is all about. It's about being in one place, and wanting to get to another place, then building the bridge (the strategy) to get you there.

With brand communications, those places involve people. What are people thinking, feeling and doing in relation to your brand and the market it's in at the moment? What would you like them to think, feel and do in your future - that your brand communication could potentially influence?

I sometimes get myself in a tangle, still, when thinking about objectives. "Communicate that our brand delivers XYZ benefit better than any other" isn't a communication objective, it's a message or bit of content. But what change in people's perceptions or behaviour do we want to see? That is a communication objective. Whether we can measure it such that it becomes a numerical goal is another question.

Business objectives are usually couched in the language of profit or growth. Marketing Objectives may include brand/market share, or % penetration. And these objectives need all elements of the marketing mix (4, 5, or 6 Ps depending on how you see it).

But communications objectives must relate back to something people will think, feel or do. Make the brand more famous than Victoria Beckham. Sign up a friend for the customer club. Give them a sense of self-esteem. Cry. Say yes. Say no. Dig their hand in their pocket and contribute.

And the more it's about doing, the better.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

An equal and opposite reaction

This is the time of year when you get all those ingeniously named trends for the next year, such as this latest little lot from Trendwatching. I'm always amused by picking out the counter-trend to each one that's mentioned, sometimes in the same article.

My eye was caught by the Mychiatry trend - not content with people quantifying their bodies and bodily functions, people are now going to use technology to measure their minds. This trend is manifested via ideas such as an app to record, share and analyse dreams (as if other people's dreams weren't dull enough, you can now access a whole internet full of strangers' dreams) or headphones that detect the user's mood and play music accordingly from a database (I do hope that a human being of some description has been involved in the compilation and classification of the database.)

This trend, according to Trendwatching, is being fuelled by "those for whom mental health is (like physical fitness, career progress, and academic achievements) a new benchmark, yet another area for them to outperform their peers." Well, yukkety yuk. Can't wait for all these outperforming benchmark junkies to start wiring their kids up to these devices, too.

Swallowing back the admission that I did post a score I got on some pointless Facebook quiz the other day, I'll move quickly on to the next trend: No Data. This is much nicer. This is all about "brands that offer brilliant service while loudly and proudly eschewing the collection of personal data." There is certainly a need for this, with 82% of people on a global basis believing that companies collect too much information on consumers.

Unfortunately, Trendwatching can't offer up any examples on this yet.

Reaction, counter-reaction. Who's to say which way people will go in 2014? But one thing is certain - there will be no one certain answer. Planners and Marketers are best keeping their minds open, their antennae on alert, using all modes of perception.

Quoting Blake:
"May God us keep
From single vision & Newton's sleep."