Integration

Sir Martin Sorrell has made his first investment at his new company in a shop called Media Monks- which “is a creator of agile and dynamic digital content” What Sir Martin does, the industry talks about. So, let’s not break the habit of a lifetime

  • Is this a hot investment ?
  • Why is Content an important thing for brands to understand?

The word itself is not a good start- it suggests yet more digital detritus pushed out to widespread indifference. As you start Googling you are probably not thinking “gosh, there is a shortage of information here”.  In 2004 Google indexed 38 Trillion pages on the web.

A new book, The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing by  Laz Dzamic and Justin Kirby that grapples honestly with what it takes to be good at Content. It is an insider’s guide based on interviews with people in the business. It even has a chapter of highly articulate detractors who say that this is all just modish nonsense  (Declaration of interest- I worked with Laz at Google).

Here are some of insights I took from the book: –

Creating stuff people choose .What people want online is stuff that they choose to look at or use or participate in-this is a decent working  definition of  Content.  You have to stop seeing marketing as something that is done to people – but done for people’s benefit. ( it is an appealing idea right now as digital advertising is going through a bad patch- seen as a form of pollution as evidenced by the rise of ad-blocking)

Use data for empathy  Brands need to being really good at analysing and using data differently. As people go about researching, choosing and buying (in any given category) they send off “signals” about what interests them and what they might be receptive to in those moments. These “data signals” are the starting point for human empathy. In that moment do you just try to sell to them or do you imagine what they will find fascinating or irresistible or useful. Very few companies are good at this kind of data analysis, and you know who they are: Google, Facebook, Amazon. Most probably, you will have to work with their data and, in all probability post your content on their platforms – and pay their advertising tax to attract people to it

Content is easiest with existing customers in high interest categories .Because you know who they are, what they have bought and they have given you permission to use their data. ExampleSo, you have just booked a holiday – in that moment you are probably open to Content. TUI did just that – new bookers were delivered a sequence of useful stuff about, for example, check in, destination information other services such as car hire and excursions.  (See P 136 of the book ).This kind of Content is really an extension of service and is a more sophisticated and digitally delivered version of something companies have always done.

That said, digital makes it different because it increases the number of occasions when your customer is in contact and therefore available to Content. In practice it leads to a detailed map of customer contact moments and a Content delivery plan.

Learn about your customer every day .It could be the best thing you can do- as it will force you to learn what really interests your customers and what they really want. Every day you will be looking at data that keeps you honest. If you create Content (say information or advice or entertainments) that people don’t bother to look at then you will have to improve because lots of others are vying for your customers attention. It’s hard work and requires constant energy and investment. Truth be told is it is very difficult to create Content that the general public wants to look at – ask any newspaper editor, film maker , song writer, novelist, successful blogger or vlogger. It is a full time job. Even then you have no guarantee of success- so what chance does a brand have ?

Brands have to partner with people who know how to do it .Brands start way back in the race to create great Content. In order to get to the start line they probably have to partner with people who already have an audience and a profile. Famous folk often. When I was in the Zoo at Google I spent quite a lot of time advising brand owners on how to set up YouTube channels. I came to the conclusion that most should not try unless they were prepared to invest in a regular stream of great films and partner with successful YouTubers in order to boost their audiences. And there is no point in doing this if you are not clear on why you are doing it. In fact it could look like a rather desperate attempt to cling onto someone else coat tails so…

Be credible The Internet can often feel like a vast ocean of unreliable but endlessly fascinating stuff. If you are going to add to this you need to answer the “why” questions. Why are we doing this and why will our Content be valued by people? In fact, these are probably the first questions you should ask.

So is Content marketing the answer ? It can be very powerful done well- but it is difficult to do well – as illustrated by each of the six points above

Sure, there are the famous “viral” hits – from videos of stunts or amazing pieces of film or great ads or some magical piece of new technology (VR is the great hope right now)- but these are few and far between and difficult to repeat. So don’t fall for that snake oil.

Creating great Content is a major investment in strategy, planning, data analysis, partnerships and creation. You have to think and behave like a media owner – which most brand marketing companies are not set up for.

But if you are going to do it, this new book by industry experts is required reading. It gives you the inside track on what’s needed, the pitfalls and who you might want to work with.

And what of Media Monks? Well, my guess is that they will also be doing a lot of advertising (if they don’t already).  That is where the money still is. The big players-Google, Facebook and increasingly Amazon- will have to muck out The Augean Stables of digital advertising. They have to, as it’s their business model. Oh, and by the way, it funds loads of free services that we value.

Simon Jacks, BBC business correspondent, said, on the 10 O’Clock news, that Sir Martin was thought off more as “a money man than an adman”, thus repeating some of the snooty and hoary old remarks that were said against him by the likes of David Ogilvy years back .

Jacks seems to me to have missed something important about the man

Sir Martin was certainly creative about business and, less well known, is his delight in winning new business pitches. This is as vital to the health of a creative agency as the creative department. In fact without the wins you have nothing for creative people to get their teeth into.

Here is my Sir Martin story.

In 1998 I took over as Chief Executive of red cell advertising ( a WPP company)  and immediately found myself a re-pitch for my largest client – Bank of Scotland’s direct banking arm- up against BBH and McCann. Not good news. I knew BBH would field Sir John Hegarty and McCann had big resources and, at that time, offices throughout the UK. red cell was an agency of some 40 people with some decent clients – Singapore airlines, Alfa Romeo, Wales Tourism board amongst others- but I was heavily outgunned.

My calculation was the BoS would be more likely to know who Martin was ( he was not Sir Martin then) than Sir John Hegarty

I pick up the phone to Martin and said I would aim to keep the business  by proposing a WPP team in partnership with Ogilvy One. Would he come to the pitch? He seemed delighted to be asked  and said he did not just want to “be decorative and to give him an active role”. He wanted to present the offer to the board of Bank of Scotland as part of the team. I also commissioned a radio program about the future of finance – ie a piece of content marketing- to show our creative credentials and so as not to look like our whole pitch rested on Martin.

Well it probably did. We won. I well remember the squeek of delight Martin let out when I called to let him know. red cell was an agency dedicated to challenger brands and challenger thinking. In other words we stood with the underdogs. Although Martin went on to head a huge company, I think he never lost his passion for winning against the odds and seeing off staid and established competitors. That is why i think he responded so full heartedly to my call.

So Jacks I think missed something essential about the man – his creativity in business and the sheer visceral pleasure he takes in competing to win. In this respect he is an adman to his finger tips

Fans of Madmen may remember an episode when Don makes a client sign a creative brief – the idea being that the brief is a form of contract that a client makes with the agency.It made me nostalgic. This was common practice when i worked for Lintas and Ogilvy in the 80s – but now you rarely see this done

I wonder whether we should bring it back?
For a decade I have been running training courses for clients on “how to brief an agency” -but the common complaint from agencies is still that they either receive either no brief or an ill thought out document with a long wish list of objectives.

In other words no decisions have been made. Decision making (this, not that objective, this, not that audience) is the essence of good strategy.

For all the warm words that are said about “how important the brief is” the truth is that the brief is no longer a valued document because no commitment has been made. The result – wasted effort, costs, poor agency client relationships

Perhaps we should considering bringing back the practice of having a signed brief
Signing a contract – like the prospect of being hanged tomorrow as Dr Johnstone once said- concentrates the mind wonderfully.


Last year The Cannes Awards saw many examples of brands trying to “do good business by doing good”. I expect this year there will again be many awards entries that aim to engender brand loyalty by being good corporate citizens. Aurora commissioned me to write a piece about this undoubtedly  big trend.

I have taken an historical perspective to explain why brands adopted “higher purpose branding” covering- 19th century philanthropy, challenger brand thinking courtesy of Adam Morgan and finally looking at the influence of big tech and social media. Brands covered include – The Body Shop, Dove, Google, Microsoft and Uber

A word doc is here which may be easier to read  HPB final

 

 

Page 29

 

Page 30

EM Forster

EM Forster

One of the shortest explanations of our profound need for stories comes from EM Forster,

with these two lines

“The King died , and the queen died”

” The King died , and the queen died of grief”

The first line plays to our deepest fears – that life is just a series of random events. You are born and  you die and not much between is certain or fated – except perhaps ( as Woody Allen pointed out ) taxes. No. that won’t do – we need there to be some meaning and for events to be linked with causation  and patterns to give us the feeling that we can make sense of randomness. Which is why we do not just like stories, we need them. Stories are necessary lies.

The second line is also- whilst longer-much more memorable because it is the fragment of a story we can both participate in it and use it to conjure up mental pictures- In this case of grief and what grief looks like.

No wonder that  proselytisers of religions  and  marketers of brands (who are  is in the business of both imparting meaning and being  remembered) use stories.

 

The IPA latest book on effectiveness by Les Binet and Peter field performs a valuable service for hard pressed brand managers and creative directors everywhere . It provides the hard evidence for taking a long term view of brand building. And for creative directors at ad agencies it endorses something that they have known for a long time – really powerfully emotional ads work.

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Here were some of my key take-outs from the excellent presentation Les and Peter made at the IPA

1) Really successful brands balance short-term sales stimulation and long-term building of brand affinity through emotional connection (no surprise there)

2) They also talk to new users and do not just reward existing users. Brands have to keep “feeding the funnel.” The logic of this is that for the vast majority of  brands there are always many more non-users than existing users and if you target non- users you will also “nudge” lapsed users to try again. Again no surprise if you have been brought up on the work of Andrew Ehrenberg- but many brands do not act on this knowledge.

3) Emotion is much more powerful that most people realize- and it is understated because it is difficult to research. Why? What Emotional communications does is to prime our system 1 brains- and we are unable to give an account of how information is being processed by our system 1 brain because this is our subconscious brain.

4) The John Lewis case history provides useful model. They balance activation and brand building and in so doing achieve both short term and long-term effects. They also do not mix the two in any one channel of communication- the TV ads are designed to get a pure emotional response and the activation is information designed to stimulate a sales response. This integrated package increased their share in a highly competitive market.

5) Emotionally primed people want to believe the best of a brand. And therefore emotionally primed people view all messaging from a brand through rose tinted spectacles. That is why an integrated package of emotional and rational communication works. When you see a price ad you are already predisposed to like the brand giving the offer. Your system 2 brain tells you “ that is a good offer and fits my needs now” and your system 1 brain working away in the background endorses it with a feeling that you like the brand or people trying to sell to you.

6) If you take this work from the IPA and relate it to Daniel Kahnemann’s insights into our “two system brain” you also have the psychological language to explain the relationship between emotion and reason in making effective campaigns.