sorry, that's a brand

June 4, 2012 · 0 comments

yes, this comes more than a month after the article was released, but such is the nature of catching up on my blog reading. this article from Ad Age, on the topic of james dyson, reveals that the brilliant designer doesn't believe in brand. at all. to the point that the word is taboo within the walls of his company (so he says).

as a guy who believes quite a bit in brands and is in the business of propelling brands forward, i'm alright with this assertion.

the reality is, who cares if dyson believes in brand or not. that's not his role. he is a designer. if he was to worry about brand, then that would detract from his product designing, and that would be bad for the brand. the product is the brand. everything he talks about is, by nature, a version of a brand. so without his dedication to product, the brand has no story behind it, no credibility and no reference point to consumers. yes, that's brand, but he doesn't need to believe in it, or do anything more to create it, it's a natural output.

the Ad Age article points to the company having run commercials as their proof to discredit dyson and that, in itself, is fallacy. having a tv spot does not a brand make. many of the commenters miss the mark too by parroting the same or calling dyson a hypocrite.

brand's have a measure of artifice and dyson is more genuine than that. the intentional creating of a brand adds layers of meaning or communication pieces to messages that connect with consumers on different levels. dyson as a "non-brand" strips those things away. for instance, there's no tagline on the tv spot. the article (subtley) and comments (overtly) deride dyson for his a-good-product-sells-itself mentality but it's obviously working.

so he puts product first when others put brand first. that's refreshing and different these days. he's not putting lipstick on a pig and he's not adding fluff to substance. isn't that commendable?

dyson doesn't need to believe in brand not just because it would take him off task, but because brand's are created in the minds of consumers. at least in part. sure companies help that along with advertising and other activities, but it's not the only piece. products themselves play just as heavy a role. he simply decided to strip the company and branding bits out and let consumers formulate it for themselves (with some reminders of the product - ie. tv spots).

see humans crave structure, associations and relationships. whether a company creates those or not with branding, people will form them and thus creates the brand on it's own, organically. all this method does is completely hand-over the brand to consumers to formulate their version of a brand rather than the usual shared way (or forced in many cases). that is a perfectly legitimate approach. not one our industry can really choke down because it goes against much of what is espoused and charged for. whatever the case, a brand lives in the minds of its consumers, just different ways of getting it there in the first place.

what happens when the consumer opinion changes, though, how will dyson recover? the point is that should he do what he does best in creating great products, there is no pivot point for consumers. say it still happens because some other product comes onto the market that is better. again, it goes back to the product. it either won't happen because of continuous improvement or it is immediately reworked in response. in both cases, the product reigns supreme and consumers remake the brand better in their minds as a result because they still got something beneficial.

in the end, just because one marketer doesn't believe in brand doesn't mean brand's don't exist (even his own) or that brand's don't have power. all it says are there are different ways to create and nurture brands because there are different types of brands. dyson should be lauded for the design genius he is because that story has transcended what we see is a normative way of creating a brand.

more than just content

May 11, 2012 · 0 comments


last thursday i had the privilege of attending the Vice upfront party in new york city (thanks Mediacom). for those who don't know Vice, they are an authentic, gritty, counter-culture, cross-media publishing group with a very defined aesthetic, POV and editorial style. they are also pioneering a new age of content creation, distribution, monetization and brand integration. hard to believe they started in canada.

much of the evening was professing many of the mantras about content marketing i'm trying to bring to the forefront in my new role (ie. nothing new - just a Vice spin), but it wasn't until nearly the end that i heard something that was newly resonant. it was one of those things that you know implicitly, but haven't talked about it or even fully realized it yourself.

i can't recall the person who said it but it went like this: "we want to create culture with [brands] that means something."

i'm not going to begin to try and pin down a definition of culture or what constitutes culture. i think we'd all naturally agree that brands are part of culture and ever more so in a hyper-connected and digital world. we can also all probably agree that advertising is also part of culture. but i would posit that it was always a subset of culture though, a strain of culture perhaps. whenever it was discussed, it had the stink of advertising on it; fleetingly alive within that narrow scope of being (only a few ever transcending that - such as Apple's 1984).

what i think the gentleman was alluding to is not contributing to a genus of culture but to culture itself. to something that is elevated, powerful, legitimate, contributing to the zeitgeist. not an ad, but something tantamount to the regard of a movie, an album, a tv show, a book, an article or a piece of technology. these all hold a place in the esoteria of culture. a piece of brand content can too. that is a whole other thing to strive for.

what it prompted for me was a new perspective when entering into formulating content; to start from the viewpoint of creating culture. to have that as a guidepost in concepting and developing. to strive for something that can penetrate beyond a brand message and into the very fabric of culture. definitely to not be an ad, and to go beyond just being a similarly transient piece of content. to be a lasting, revered artifact of a brand that doesn't wain in public consciousness for some time.

branded culture > branded entertainment

poised and ready

March 15, 2012 · 0 comments

a big part of my new job is to take ownership of the somewhat established, but still very foreign, concept of media as Paid, Owned, Earned (POE from here on out) and to instill it with everything our agency does. that's a weighty task - one that i'm super charged about.

where i'm going with this post is to flat-out proclaim that this holistic view on the media landscape needs to be owned by a media agency. full stop. there is no other entity with the ability to herald this vision. the real purpose is to put on the table that a shift toward greater reliance, trust, and increased responsibility that the media agency has within the advertiser's communication and even business domains.

at the simplest of levels, our deep understanding of the Paid sphere is a primary differentiator. many agencies share a on Owned and Earned, including media ones, but only those media agencies truly understand the Paid space. to clarify, by "many agencies have a view on Owned and Earned" only means that there is a general shared understanding of the principles and what works for those and not the nuance and expertise in executing. media agencies don't have the latter in all cases. the Paid space doesn't not have that same understanding beyond media agencies. so just in that, media agencies are better poised.

stemming from that, and ironically what has pigeon-holed us for so long, is our ability to leverage our investments and partnerships to better exploit the entire POE landscape. lines are blurring constantly and money still talks. that influence, unique to media agencies, opens possibilities. you don't have to like that fact, but it's true.

media agencies have also shown a greater aptitude for consumer understanding. everything we do is rooted in consumer understanding across all sorts of markers and we've owned that for a long time. as communications need to be ever more consumer centric, media agencies are positioned to best service those demands.

then there is channel planning. as a derivative of communication planning, it is the de facto right approach to formulating a go-to-market plan. in the age of an attention economy and massive fragmentation, channel-led communications are what win, not creative led ones. when technology is driving down the cost to iterate messages, the channels are what become chiefly important and the creative flows from that. channels are the unique domain of media agencies. no two ways about it.

the last point i want to make is that this isn't a call for world domination by media agencies. on the contrary. i'm only saying that our approach and position to lead that approach is the way, but other agencies with specialized services are absolutely required to realize the elements constructed in the communications planning process.

that's right, i'm calling creative agencies, technology companies, public relations firms, digital specialty shops and a host of others as specialty areas that support the communications planning process. they execute on the needs of plans derived from it. don't forget, media companies also fit into that as we execute the buys and other media elements - the stuff we've always done.

the other part to keep in mind is that the intention is not to exclude any of these agencies from the process. absolutely, they must contribute to it and be involved. i'm merely stating that my belief is that media companies lead it through their holistic view and procedures to deliver communications planning. these other partners aren't order takers to the media companies either. they are order takers to the plan, just like media companies are order takers to that same plan.

i wholly believe that this is the future shape of things. i'm excited to help make it a reality. i don't know how long it will take, i just know that it is inevitable. i'm sure there's a lot of disagreement and i'd love to open the discussion about it.

marketing pinsanity

February 23, 2012 · 0 comments

in case it wasn't glaringly apparent, Pinterest is the social network du jour. many have held that mantle, this is just the latest. it's a great story for an interesting niche product. rampant growth, fanatical usage, massive time sucking and heavy dashes of inspiration.

as invariably as every other social network, the questions of whether brands should use the service or not have sprung up. the social media navel gazers have been ebullient about it, naturally. content producers (namely media companies) have taken a liking to it. some natural fit industries (ie. fashion, design, food) are downright zealous about it. but the broader brandsphere still has a question mark around it.

i've already heard it tossed out in a few meetings with little regard. "that'd be great to do on Pinterest." i shudder on the inside. remember, it is just a channel that is still very embryonic when it comes to sophistication for brands to be involved. and frankly, there is a certain aesthetic required, an expectation of illiciting emotional responses, and a required caliber of effort just to fit in there.

here's my solutions to how brands should approach Pinterest:
create things that are worthy of pinning
or
inspire people to include or re-imagine your brand (in a good way)

that's it. that's all any of the current users are doing, brands are no different. leave the conversation about "marketing on Pinterest" at the door. don't force it. if either of those is an action they want to take, great, leave it to them.

you might need some kind of awareness behind whatever it is so people know it's there to pin. it can be discovered through your other communities or PR or elsewhere. nothing splashy. don't make a big deal about the fact your on Pinterest or try to game it somehow. don't beg for pins like you did for Likes.

after you've done that and the space matures a bit, then decide whether you need a profile or you need to invest resources here. see if warranted because it just creates yet another space to maintain that has heavy demands. are the people you want to talk to even there? don't forget to ask that question.

can we can start the conversation about the value of a pin?

a giant leap for brands as content (not advertising)

February 22, 2012 · 0 comments

of course, branded content or brand storytelling is not news. nor is the shift of communications away from 'ads.' i myself have been pursuing this paradigm shift to our industry for many years. until now, there was the theoretical approach as this video does well to elaborate.


but there was always a hesitation or a missing proof to the approach. it's a massive leap without much in the way of the empirical data to say there is another side to land on. let's also be frank, likely a lack of skill to execute on such a demanding way to generate brand communications.

sure, there were dabblers, but recently the game changed and took a massive step to legitimacy and action. it took the likes of Coca-Cola, but i think this is a watershed moment and think it worthy to share.

in this incredibly well thought out, detailed and methodical blueprint, they've taken the theory, layered the brand purpose and built a platform that is beginning to end meaningful for the brand to pursue this course. the execution of the blueprint is high caliber too which already shows a commitment to producing top notch brand pieces.

i find it incredibly interesting that they would publicize it. of course they want to get credibility and recognition within the industry, but its specificity really reveals their hand. i'm conflicted on it. that they've bought into the approach so vigilantly is laudable and to share it opens up doors for the rest of us. but it could have been a competitive advantage, at least for a little bit. that they've declared this as what's right and competition be damned also opens up scrutiny and even distances any consumer who might now be in the know of their changing ways and still objects to this new assault on them.

either way, it's exciting to see the broader effect this will have.



back to it

February 13, 2012 · 0 comments

it's been nearly a year since i last blogged. in that time i've thought many a time that i should really get back into it. the notion obviously never stuck. i asked myself "does anyone still blog?" more than once. here i find myself eager to renew my efforts here.

 so what changed?

 for one, i've had an incredible urge to be creative lately. that i'm through with just being on the sidelines and taking in. time to contribute. blogging was always just about writing for me and a creative outlet. if something was salient, great, but it was more to just put out. the mantra for this year was "do". do whatever, but just don't make excuses or find walls to put up stopping me. so now when i feel the need to blog, i will.

 there's also the matter of being rejuvenated in my work life. forty days ago, i started a job with Mediacom Canada and am fully invigorated into the position. it's a dramatic change from my last job. as i aim to push myself in this new position, putting ideas out there and the simple act of writing will be a boon for my productivity there.

another reason is a little more meta. i've been thinking about the act of sharing and i feel that blogging still has some value to it. sharing, like the size of consumable media and general attention, has become ever-more brief. that sharing is almost an inconsiderate act as people simply push buttons and add little or no additional meaning, insight or connection to objects. in a world where people can contribute in a variety of ways, sharing trumps new idea generation or even building off existing ones.

so, to do my part in adding meaning to what i share and to put new ideas out there, this will be the platform. i don't know the shape of things shared and created, just that i will.

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