Tuesday 29 April 2014

I am what I do?

In these days, when brands need agility above all else in order to succeed, I often wonder about the wisdom of spending hours, days or months defining a Position. And then sticking there.

The very word Position suggests something static, set in stone - maybe in pyramidal form - and not really agile at all. By the time you have defined it, the world has moved on and you are left rather like Ozymandias.

Some sort of statement of what your brand is and what it stands for in people's hearts and minds is important. But the next step is to work out what that means for how your brand behaves - what it does. What is your brand's role in people's lives?

There's a useful presentation, Brand as Verb by Ben Grossman, in which he gives 5 principles for a brand as more than a noun - "Brands must see themselves as verbs."

Just do it!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Eggsactly the same?

Some people would say "Eggs is Eggs," to which I'd probably launch into a discussion about fried and scrambled and poached and hard-boiled, not to mention duck and quail and...

Our travels at Easter took us back to the UK for a long-awaited wallow in Marmite and HP Sauce and Colman's Mustard and all the other exotic treats that are hard to come by here in Germany. But one thing I have never had a particular yearning for is Cadbury's Creme Eggs. I could certainly never eat more than one in any Easter season and I never spent too much time worrying whether I was a Biter or a Slurper or a Licker or however else You Were Meant To Eat Yours.

Easter Eggs for me, were always Big - a shell of chocolate that ideally broke conveniently in half to reveal a little bag of Buttons, or Roses, or Maltesers or somesuch, the whole thing delightfully impenetrable in foil and coloured cellophane and impractical boxes and ribbons.

When I moved to Germany, I got a culture shock. Here it was not about the size of the individual eggs, but about the quantity. About hiding and collecting. About variety and fifty shades of tin foil. And not just eggs, but bunnies and chicks and ladybirds and may bugs.

That was the last century, though. And, as surely as Aldi and Lidl have nibbled away at the Tesco and Sainsbury stronghold, so the little eggs have melted British hearts. Inspired, maybe, by the British love of Mini Eggs and Creme Eggs, all sorts of scrumptious small eggs have appeared, along with the bunnies and chicks, many of them (shock!) invaders from the Continent.

Come the end of the Easter holidays, there won't be much difference in the expansion of your waistline whether you've gobbled down zillions of little ones or one Big One, but it is certainly interesting to reflect on Easter Eggs as globalisation in a sweet microcosm.

Friday 11 April 2014

Bother and Trouble

I don't often witter on about my secret life as a children's author here, but I hope I'll be excused a little indulgence. My second retro-style adventure for 9-12s, Trouble in Teutonia will be launched at Brooklands Museum on Thursday 17th April and the website has been live since yesterday.

I suppose it's what you'd call a brand extension, and Stefan Lochmann has done an excellent job. The challenge was enough similarity with Burmeon - the retro adventure look - while creating a unique 1957 Cold War world for Teutonia .

It's jam-full of jolly japes, jaunty jalopies and - um - jetty jets.

If you're looking for Trouble, you're in the right place.

Monday 7 April 2014

You are what you lead?

The hullabaloo in the last week over Brendan Eich, the ex-CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, has got me thinking about the role that senior executives play when shaping a company's public perception.

I don't want to get into Mr Eich's views, especially those that lost him his job, but I believe there is a strong need in these days of transparency for senior executives - and maybe other employees - to give careful thought as to whether their personal views and opinions are compatible with the values of the company they work for.

Brendan Eich has been called everything from "horribly bullied" to an "obnoxious homophobe" recently but I wonder if he would have been under similar pressure to step down if he had worked in a more conservative industry - arms manufacture to take a silly example, or the automobile industry to take a more realistic one.

Back in the last century, you had your Mission Statement and Brand Values on the wall of the boardroom and no-one paid them much attention. Only rare exceptions when it came to CEOs could really be said to be living the values of the company - Anita Roddick, or Richard Branson for example. Or Ingvar Kamprad (above) - an interesting case, who certainly makes a point of living a low cost life but came on very shaky ground for a company that believes in democracy and diversity when certain aspects of his early life were revealed.

These days it's difficult to hide and companies must ensure that their senior representatives fit culturally with what the company is about. And the onus is also on the executive him/her self. If you're used to a luxury lifestyle, IKEA probably isn't the place for you. Nor is Procter & Gamble if you're an animal rights activist in your spare time.

The Eich case isn't that simple, as Brendan Eich founded Mozilla himself.

Even so, he should never been offered the position of CEO, or accepted it.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

The age of Big Insight

The age of Big Data has been upon us for some time, with marketers and advertising rightly excited about the possibilities that the amalgamation of data - particularly "found data" in terms of the digital detritus almost all human beings leave behind in their daily lives - gives us.

If you've been in this game for some time, as I have, you may remember the thrill that accompanied econometric models in their early days. These were going to tell us the secret of how advertising worked and what made people buy our brands. The econometric models are very useful, of course, to help marketers interpret the past, but alone they cannot predict the future. And a badly conceived or interpreted model is worse that none at all.

Every time such a model is presented, I find it useful for the agency to re-iterate what correlation actually is, and what it isn't. At college, I had "correlation does not imply causation" drummed into me I don't know how many times. It's like this, if A and B are correlated:

A could cause B
B could cause A
A and B are the consequences of a common cause but one does not cause the other. So, sleeping in your shoes does not cause headaches, even though instances of the two events are correlated. One look at our friend above can tell you the underlying cause.
There is no connection between A and B - the correlation is coincidental.

This is just one of the factors that Tim Harford considers in an excellent FT Magazine article about Big Data and the potential pitfalls in its interpretation. We must beware that the errors we make with more manageable data sets are not simply compounded as the data set gets bigger - for example, via sample bias. And, in the end, the human factor in terms of insightful interpretation remains key. His closing sentences sum this up very nicely:

“Big data” has arrived, but big insights have not. The challenge now is to solve new problems and gain new answers – without making the same old statistical mistakes on a grander scale than ever.