is the business model of media owners down the years- and that battle has now moved to your smartphone.

Winning apps find ways to “scratch your itches”many times a day. Facebook  is the most energetic in enticing you back to their platform with a continuous flow of digital addiction-it started with “poking” for me and most recently I have found it irresistible not to look back on “memories from a years ago” ( most recent innovation) as well as “my year on Facebook”(which was as i recall launched last Christmas). With Facebook you feel that they constantly at your elbow nudging you check out your page and anxious should you drift away and fall out of the Facebook habit. They are right to be paranoid.

Snapchat has been making moves too – originally, it was a visual messaging app with an auto-delete after viewing.( that was its launch USP).  Then they curated “content snacks” from a whole range of media brands in a section called “discover” (see below)



But that did not take off and so they have launched a “live” channel which consists of an edited selection of videos submitted by snap-chatters in a particular locality-

“London life” gives you a window into what fellow users up to based on the video clips they submit. It is weirdly fascinating content – rough and ready , generated by ” people like you” and and a “things to do” prompt. For people who submit it is also like a competition – will my clip make it to the final cut ? somehow you can’t resist checking it out – but to work the video mash up  will need to change everyday or even several times a day IMG_6245IMG_6246In the social media app market snapchat is a challenger that has to be inventive just to stay in the game up against a well funded heavy hitter in Facebook

What happens if you don’t keep evolving your app to make it irresistible ?

The recent fate of the CEO of Twitter is a reminder that it is easy to fall off the pace. Across the web you will find the husks of former shakers and movers – like friendster or friends re-united or myspace. It will be interesting to track the innovations of both FB and Snapchat in 2016 because they teach us a lot about how to win and retain attention in “the smartphone economy”- which is shaping up to be as ruthless and competitive as the newspaper market

Just back from the Marketing Society Annual conference where much of the talk was about how technology +data are leading to innovation. It’s all about brand building through better more personal experiences, services and speed of new products to market ( with advertising getting barely a mention.)

What are good examples of this? Here is one of my favourites

Disney ‘Magic Band’: “Park guests” use the Magic Band to gain access to the park, get in priority queues for the attractions, pay for their purchases at the concession stands, and even get into their hotel room. Each family member has a wearable band with GPS and radio transmitters that track each other’s location in the park. At the end of their stay, Disney presents the family with a photo diary of their park adventures, having used automatic cameras to snap pictures when the Magic Bands are nearby. And imagine the face of a newly-turned six-year-old who just had his favourite Disney character address him by name and wish him a happy birthday. Disney made a billion dollar investment to create a wearable accessory that changes their park experience completely.imgres-1.jpgimgres.jpg

This is worth a watch -especially from about half way through (Declaration of interest- Lars leads the team in which i work at Google -known as The Zoo).

Lars explains what the Zoo is,what work it does and (most interestingly) introduces some of the cool stuff that we are going to see in Gaming and Filmmaking making soon. These give a glimpse what’s going to be possible and applied in other ways – such as in retail, services innovation and “brand experiences” in general

(Innovation in gaming tends flow down and out and become more mainstream in marketing communications over time)

I will do a number of posts over the next month of examples of how tech is making live experience better – easier and more pleasurable- right now. It helps explain why brands need to build creative technologists and data analysts into the way they seek to improve ” the service experience”

is the title of an enlightening and helpful little book by BJ Mendelson.


It helps you sort out the crap from the hype. Some things that rang bells

Beware cyber hipster’s thought leadership

A whole class of cyber hipsters is busy creating and spreading hype because it helps their own business/raises their fees as public speakers. Heard of web 2.0? Yup. Tim O’Reilly – an uber cyber hipster -came up with it (probably) and has built a consulting business and a regular expensive conference on the back of it. He can stand for a whole class of cyber hipsters who swim around in the same pool and scratch each others backs- no different them from other walks of life then.


There are very few pure social media successes

Many so called social media success stories – Think Old Spice man – are not really that. They also had big ad spend and top quality media production behind them.

Cui Bono ? is always a good question

Who benefits from the idea that social media are powerful in building brands?It’s the big platforms themselves- like Facebook and Twitter-who are trying to grab their share of the advertising pie.You’re a dinosaur if you are not using social media aren’t you? well, arent you?

Cue all sorts of “innovations” from these platforms to win more adspend – sponsored tweets/native ads-all of which will be boosted as the next big thing

Talent alone rarely wins out


Beware the Justin Beiber myth- this is idea that someone with talent (yes he has got some painful to admit) can come from nowhere and break through big time. It is very rare. Mostly when you lift the lid on successes there are big media partners and/or adspend and various other (paid for) boosters behind it.

BJ Mendelson book is useful in helping you develop your bullshit detectors.

The Internet is so young that it is bound to be teaming with hucksters and charlatans- he calls them out.

But he overstates the case.

It may be naive to think that talent alone or great content will win through. Yet yet yet.. access is greatly increased.Everyone can now be a publisher/creator/filmaker/Writer now. You can build a following if you do it well – i.e. you are relevant and/or interesting. Bear in mind though if you have any success you will have to trade with big media and other big beasts of the Internet to get to the next level.

One other good reason to read this book is he has a whole section on how to “game the system” – i.e. get seen as an expert and win profile and followers.

Which rather proves the point that the system is much more open than before

It is 10 years since I published The Communications Challenge (APG 2004), which opened the door for me to many opportunities to run training courses – on all continents (except Antarctica) for both agencies and clients.

10 years on – what have I learnt?

I hope these notes are useful to anyone commissioning research or those looking for a satisfying new career in business education or as a trainer.

Most useful preparation for being a good trainer

For me it was learning to design and moderate groups discussions (whilst a planner at Ogilvy). In fact writing a book only gets you business it does not make you a good trainer. Nor does being a great presenter. In fact I fancy myself quite a bit as a presenter- but this can lead you to think it’s all about giving a great performance. It’s not. People learn very little from a power point and get bored after 45 mins with an egotistical presenter.

Remember you are designing an interaction

People learn from the holy trinity of interaction, stories and examples. And of these three the most important is interaction – with the trainer and each other. Quite a lot of the value that people get from training comes not from listening to the trainer but getting to know each other and how to work with each other. In a lot of client organisations people work in silos and the culture is not conducive to team working. As the trainer your are enabling this to happen. People enjoy this and it is a blessed release from the daily grind.

Think of presentation as the introduction of stimulus for the next interaction

As a general rule you should have only about 10 slides before having a break out or discussion – if people are particularly responsive presentation can be done as a form of live interaction rather than “sit and listen”. Introduce only one idea and illustrate it with examples during your 10 slides – which should be mainly pictures and carry as little text as possible.

Make sure your delegates want to be in the room.

The trainer needs to bring a lot of energy into the room – but you will only have a great session if it is reciprocated and your delegates want to be there.  Their bosses need to position training a benefit to delegates and you should avoid situations if possible where people have been “told to go to the training”. It will not go well. Similarly if the organization you are training is about to be “restructured” or “downsized” delegates will not be in the mood for -as they will be distracted at best and pissed off at worst.

Find out about your delegates

It is a good idea to ask delegates to fill in a pre-course questionnaire to find out about their hopes and expectations and use what you have found out in the workshop – be flexible.

Delegates want the trainer to be “on receive” and not just “transmit”

Leadership from your client is vital.

Your delegates need to know that the training is important to the organization so you need endorsement from the leader- preferably in person at the start of the session.

You need to lay down the rules

The bane of your life as a trainer is the mobile phone – it used not to be 10 years ago and now it is very difficult to stop those itchy thumbs – especially if your delegates work for an organization where the culture is to respond to emails very rapidly. You can try taking mobiles away provided you understand that your delegates may see this as an assault on their human rights.

Evaluate at the end

Ask delegates to fill in a short evaluation questionnaire at the end. Over 10 years I have learnt a lot from these- especially the point about interaction above

People almost never reference the quality of presentation – they do appreciate a trainer who listens and interacts. They do also recognize when you “know your stuff” and have asked questions and received a thoughtful replies.

Never get stale

I rarely run exactly the same course twice – I normally learn something from running a session and want to make improvements and/or refresh and update the examples I use. For the topics I cover this is essential and there is always new creative work and, embedded in this work, are new ideas about what will be effective. Especially now.

Best countries to run training

Sadly not my own. Brits can be very complacent. In countries like Pakistan, Brazil, China and Nigeria there is a visceral hunger for knowledge and people bring energy and enthusiasm to the workshops. Training in the USA represents some challenges as Americans think of themselves as top dogs and they see themselves as dishing out the advice and not receiving it. (Brits are guilty of this too). So if you are a Brit training in the USA you need to partner with an American.

 What have been my favorite training courses?

Logic and leap – with Patrick Collister A planner (me) and a creative director (Patrick) take you from brief to creative idea in one day – we ran this with independent creative agencies in various parts of the world including RSA (Jupiter Drawing Room), Ireland and Finland. A privilege and a pleasure

Media Creativity Workshop for Unilever- from new product idea to innovative use of media in one day. Agency people and Unilever folk all in one room. A very good mix people learnt a lot from each other. This ran internationally.

Account Planning for Account Directors – bright and ambitious agency folk are always a joy. This also meets a big need- all those agencies out there that what to be better at the strategy bit yet cannot afford to hire a lot of planners.

Any disappointments?

These days I normally work alone – and the reason is budgets. This is a pity.

In the early part of the last decade I was often partnered up. And this made it a lot more enjoyable and less knackering.  So if there are any trainers out there looking for a partner please do get in touch

There are emerging trends and then there are fully emerged trends

If you take the  Cannes 2013 awards as a guide  then the idea that brands should take on public spirited causes is now a fully emerged trend

I mean by this not just a commitment to being responsible  in the way they do business. No this is something altogether more high profile.

In this years  awards many of the award winners- a majority perhaps- were companies communicating how they are working on behalf of citizens and championing public spirited causes

Such as these campaigns

  • IBM making billboards into seats and shelters for weary travellers.
  • Dela Dela Funeral Insurance encouraging us to be nice to relatives, before they die.
  • Channel 4 saluting Paralympic athletes.
  • Smart Communications providing textbooks for poor schoolchildren using old mobile phones.
  • Dove encouraging women to value their own beauty.
  • Oreo cookies celebrating diversity.
  • Recife Football Club encouraging organ donation.
  • P&G has become the worlds proud sponsor of mums ( that last one is quite a turnaround- when i started in the biz they were an anonymous chemical company)

What is the thinking behind this? It is  based on the belief that people don’t just buy what you do, they also buy why you do it.

Put another way the model is this-

“Love my values,

Love my brand,

Buy my product or service ( at a premium)”

Is it working ? Well Nielsen have just published some research that suggests that it does –

The proportion of consumers willing to pay more for goods and services from companies engaged in corporate social responsibility has increased to 50% globally, according to new research.
The study from market researchers Nielsen also found that 43% of global respondents have actually spent more on products and services from companies that have implemented programmes to give back to society.
That represents just 7% fewer than those expressing willingness to do so and comes amidst signs of a rising trend of goodwill towards socially responsible brands.
Credit should go to Unilever with their 5 levers of change and to the Dove team- the big players who were at in the start of this recent trend .
But i don’t think they invented it – “Love my values love my brand” marketing is really a classic challenger brand strategy as explained by Adam Morgan in Eating the Big Fish. People who pioneered this trend go further back like the late and highly visionary Anita Roddick with The Body Shop. It is just that the rest of the marketing world has taken a long time to catch up with Anita
Roddick was well ahead of her time - a true pioneer

Roddick was well ahead of her time – a true pioneer

But why this trend now ? Like a lot of emerged trends, There is not just one factor but a combination
– Follow my leader: when Unilever and P&G do something big time, others follow
– Marketing and business theory. John Kay in Obliquity and Jim Stengel in Grow have made the business performance case ; Companies that purely pursue profits ( aka The Shareholder Value School)  do less well than those who try to do the right thing. And sometimes doing the right thing means championing causes.
-Staff motivation: people are not just motivated by money. They prefer to work at and perform better at places ( private or public sector) that pursue a higher purpose.
-Customer service: Staff who are believers (and not just mercenaries) deliver better service. Companies like John Lewis for example.
– Premium pricing – if Mintel is right we pay more to companies that give back to society
– Communications effectiveness; It gives a company or brand a true story to tell – one that is worth telling in film (still the most moving of media) and a story to  pass on through networks and through social media. Stories worth talking about and participating in.

Well it was at Glastonbury anyway. You know that a technology is not yet really mainstream when people keep talking about it.

Successful technologies become invisible-only when you get a power cut do you have to think about power supplies.

A typical call at Glastonbury- when you could get through – was something along the lines of “wont speak for long the battery on my mobile is running low”. What to do about it ?

1) Turn off your mobile to preserve battery juice

2) Switch to a basic ‘calls and text’ mobile with a long battery life- can’t use apps though- or not easily

3) Spend time queuing and recharging your mobile in one of the two Everything Everywhere recharging tents (which is let’s be frank is a waste of your life)


Everything Everywhere had sponsored a spiffing new app on which you could plan your Glastonbury experience

Full marks for the design – which is witty


But you probably know what i am going to day next – I didn’t use it much as wanted to preserve my battery

Then i thought – I must use it so i can report back to my digital gurus at Aqueduct.

What was it like ?

-Couldn’t get the planner function to retain my selected gigs

-Couldn’t connect to friends on facebook as “Login failed” ( that might have been fun to do- so sorry that did not work)

-Couldn’t get updates and latest news on gigs ( this is an area when the app should beat print hands down)- so missed several “specials” ( and all the bragging rights that go with having seen a famous artist in a minor venue)

– I found The Guardian printed mini guide – which you carry in a little plastic lanyard round your neck- easier and quicker to use. Good on them – they have sponsored Glastonbury for as long as i have been going and deserve the reputational rewards.

Everything Everywhere did as best they could, and if they persist, it will come good- but they and us, the punters, need a lot of progress on the enabling tech – notably battery life and quality/strength of signal. Until such time you can have a brilliant app, with all the bells and whistles on it, and it will still not be as valued as the dear old Guardian’s little printed guide. So at Glastonbury anyway the mobile revolution is postponed.

Most useful mobile function? – the text message: quick, cheap and easy. A bit like The Guardian mini guide.

It all made me think of one of my favourite cartoons


Just listened to another rather vague interview with Jeremy Hunt about the NHS

( make sure you get that “H” right J.Naughtie)

Lots of vague talk about about the need for culture change without any specifics of what might be the vectors of change.

Sure culture change is not easy and the NHS is a huge organisation but this is no excuse for being so vague and platitudinous.

One area that has not been mentioned ( by Hunt anyway) is a very obvious one – technology and social media platforms in particular  can be harnessed to blow cleansing fresh air through an organisation….they can empower employees and whistle blowers.

But maybe the caution is that this is the equivalent of taking the lid of pandoras box …all manner of (uncontrollable) ghastliness will fly out

To RSA to see an empassioned and excellent talk by Tom Armitage as part of BBC radio 4’s For thought series.

His argument – teach code  in schools

But not because as Michael Gove has it – to “stay competitive in the global economy”

But because code is one of the unpinning grammars of life now.

To be truly literate now you need not just to be able to read but also write. Children should not just be trained in technology but rather introduced to code and allow to play with it and discover what is possible. They need to be able to both read and write in code.

As John Naughton pithily put it –  you would not want your children to have sex training at schools so why would you want them to have IT training. What you need is education.

(An earlier grammar, latin, tells us the true meaning of education. It is is from “e duco” – I lead out or i bring out. Children need learn code in order to bring out the best in them- to enable and empower them. My daughters “IT training” at school  seemed to consist of getting her to build a database-which is just fine if she is doing a vocational course in marketing or business studies)

In other words Tom wants to rescue code from a merely utilitarian ghetto.”Computer Science”, as it is called in our universities, is not just left brain and rational. It is creative too – understanding the grammar of computers empowers you to create your own IP and not use other people’s systems.

The argument is really another skirmish in CP Snow’s two cultures debate – Snow argued that the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society – the sciences and the humanities – was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Code is not just for the geeks and nerds  (who are doing things that our arts educated and lawyerly elites perhaps don’t really understand? I may be underestimating Mr Gove..)

And of course, this is of value to the economy. The games industry, which is dynamic and profitable for UKplc, is the product of the coming together of arts and science, of storytelling, design and graphics along with the writing of code.  Tom  pointed out that  Steve Job’s vision for desirable and user friendly devices was influenced by his love of calligraphy. Art and science again. If you teach code who knows what new ideas (and new IP) will be created-perhaps a whole new industry. 20 years ago you would not have guessed that gaming would be so big.