Friday, January 02, 2015

Better ideas come from sketching it out

Image via http://thiagolevysketch.blogspot.com/
+ There once was a time in high school when I had a teacher tell me that I shouldn't draw or doodle in my notebook because it wastes ink. I found it very funny, both ha-ha and odd. Sure, he was a science teacher but that just seemed too Spock-like in its logic.

A google search of "Why do we doodle" turns up this interesting BBC story about humans being hardwired to doodle. An article in Smashing Magazine talks about doodling as a way to help us retain information. Time published an article about a study done in England that also showed it helps you pay attention.

Move forward to the corporate world where we are surrounded by folks who have meetings to discuss meetings (seriously this is crazy to me). It's no wonder that you'll find me doodling in my notebook. But often what I'm doodling is tied to what we're talking about. If it's a new campaign, I might start sketching out some rough ideas. If it's a sales meeting, it might be thoughts around ways we can make improvements.

Creatives these days don't pick up paper and pencil or pen like they used to. We lose something in the immediacy of computers and Adobe. Sketching and doodling while brainstorming has always been one of my favorite things in the concepting process. And no, I'm not a skilled illustrator by any sense of the word. But, I can draw things out to get a sense of what the idea might be or how it might be communicated. Stick figures and simple lines. Tracing even works sometimes if necessary (windows are great for this). But, just talking about ideas and then going straight to computer roughs skips a key step in the process.

Sketching and doodling while talking through an idea can lead to better solutions for solving problems. Seeing how something might work or playing around with various elements in a quick, less permanent way can keep your brain flowing more uninhibitedly. Shapes and simple drawings that are less of a commitment keep you agile in your thinking. It's all part of the iterative process that goes into coming up with great creative ideas.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why I went to the client-side

+ Earlier this year I went from the agency world to client side. And within the past year I've seen plenty of other ad friends do the same. Why the migration to "the dark side"?

For me, having spent the prior 6 years at a digital agency (I know, that's forever in ad years), I wanted to get my hands on more pieces than just social and interactive again.

From a storytelling standpoint, I found that I wanted to be working on helping craft those stories for clients. It meant I was interested in looking at opportunities that provided more integrated thinking, strategy and creative challenges. There are a few agencies that do this well, but many are still specializing based on a medium.

In my experience I've found that many clients only saw a digital agency as able to handle certain aspects and when there was great thinking for other pieces of the business it was ignored until the "appropriate" agency presented it. I think that's sad and a miss for clients. And when agencies try to work together for their client, egos almost always get in the way. Everyone knows one agency is the "lead" but often it becomes a pissing match as they are all vying for a larger piece of the pie, which means a piece of another agency's revenue or work.

As much as I am into the nitty gritty of HOW brand stories come to life, I also want to explore the brand strategy components from a creative narrative perspective to craft what those threads are that run through all the touch points of a brand. To do so required getting embedded at a brand and helping bring all the pieces together.

I think many clients/brands underestimate the value of establishing these story lines for their brand. Because whether it's a spot or a tweet, they all should fit some how into the larger story for who you are and what you stand for.

And, sure there are probably a few other things that are contributing factors for going in-house. But that's another post for another day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why you should focus less on Millennials

+Millennials (aka Gen Y) are the only generation to be talked about so much by ad folk. There weren't long articles about reaching the Gen X generation or Baby Boomers. What is the industry obsession with this audience? Why focus so much on this one group?

Let's look a bit at what defines a Millennial. Pew Research defines someone born in 1981. Wikipedia states that there are "no precise dates when the generation starts and ends. Researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s." In May 2013, a Time magazine cover story identified Millennials as those born from 1980 or 1981 to 2000". And, a global generational study conducted by PwC (a network of member accounting firms) with the University of Southern California and the London Business School defined Millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995.

So, they range in age approximately from 18-33 years old. That's a big difference in life stages. Entering college vs. starting a family. Dating vs. settling down. Figuring out your life vs. growing your career. And when you look at how they're talked about, it seems many still focus in on that lower end, those in their early 20s...perhaps forgetting that the middle range is now mid 20s heading toward 30.

And this, to me, is why focusing on the psychographics is much more successful in terms of nailing down who you are talking to. I don't care if you're in college or retired. We are more defined by our passions and our activism, than our age. Sure, age adds color to what you know or don't based on experiences, but those who weren't tech savvy are catching up with those who are natives to the technological world. And at some point soon, that will be a moot point because every one will be digital natives.

I found this How Millennial Are You? quiz and I scored 83 out of 100, which means I'm Millennial. Actually I'm not (although only by a couple years), but it's because the questions were based on behavior...yes, psychographics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Demographics vs. Psychographics

+ Demographics get so much more weight in our industry. And, I get it. They were the darling of the media world in the Mad Men heyday. But in this digital age, psychographics should be leading the way.

Let's start by looking at the differences between demographics and psychographics. Wikipedia defines demographics as such:
Demographics are the quantifiable statistics of a given population. Demographics are also used to identify the study of quantifiable subsets within a given population which characterize that population at a specific point in time. Demography is used widely in public opinion polling and marketing.
Typically this includes items such as: Age, Education level, Income, Geographic location and other types of concrete data similar to what one would find in census data.

Wikipedia also describes psychographics in the following way:
Psychographics as the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. Because this area of research focuses on interests, attitudes, and opinions, psychographic factors are also called IAO variables.
These are the less tangible data points. They are the things that make up the personality of the person.

Demographics make generalizations. And in some cases they can be valuable.
1) Geo-targeted needs: If your brand is local or regional, you need to focus your spend and messaging at a target that will purchase at your locations.
2) High-end, luxury goods: Most likely if your product or service has a big price tag, only those who can afford it will actually buy it.

Psychographics lump folks together based on beliefs, interests and the like. In the digital age, there are many more ways for people to connect around similar interests and share opinions about the brands that they use in relation to them (such as runners and shoes). Online ordering has removed the need to be local--if you have an online store front based out of Wichita, Kansas you can still have customers in Paris, France buying your goods. Even some items like cars can a stronger psychographic pull because gear heads can see luxury items as aspirational and they might not make a lot of money but would save it up to get the latest Audi or BMW to be car rich and life poor.

Psychographics transcend age and focus on behaviors. Someone who is 40 might be just as much a hard core gamer as someone in their late teens. You then need to develop communications that speak to that aspect of their passion, not to the fact that they are 40 or late teens. It can be trickier in some aspects but also much richer and relevant in others.

Strategies that focus on the behaviors and values of their customers provide brands a chance to connect with their customers at a deeper level than just looking at demographic data. Success is found when you find the right balance that allows you to be relevant to their needs.

Monday, August 18, 2014

This & That: Stuff to read 08.18.14

+
Surprise & Delight: What is it, and why marketers love it:
"When brands publicly (and randomly) reward their customers, they demonstrate that they genuinely care about their customers, and are offering a new and exciting product/experience. This in turn creates buzz and excitement around the topic."

Lessons of continuity and disruption in building brands:
"Fundamentals for creating a loyal brand remain largely the same:
  • Provide something that's useful to people in their lives. Save them time or money, perhaps, or give them a better experience.
  • Do it in a way that's likeable, and engaging. With human decision-making largely based on emotion, make a connection.
  • Show loyalty to those that embrace you. Over time, you'll earn their trust."
...where once marketers could create an external image for the brand through advertising, a brand today is largely defined by the culture and competency of the company behind it. That culture needs to live and breathe the brand.

Wrestling with the always on social web and trying to relearn the value of boredom:
"Even if spending that time staring off into space makes it feel like I’m not accomplishing anything worthwhile, I think I probably am — and there’s research that suggests I’m right: boredom has a lot of positive qualities.">

SnapChat's pitch deck to businesses.

Life and legacy of Peter Drucker.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lessons from Nestle's Share Your Goodness campaign

Take a peek at the "Why Nestlé’s “Share Your Goodness” is More Than Good" post from Rishad, Chairman of DigitasLBi and Razorfish for some nice insights. My favorite bit from him in this post is below:
  • Storytelling is critical: Both executions, particularly Adoption, is a well-honed story – a story with humanity that leaves enough unsaid that the viewer brings their own experiences into the experience and therefore it becomes more engaging.
  • Human insights are key: The core insight is really about how food is central to human bonding and social experience. In both commercials, food serves as a bridge, a connection, an expression of love and understanding between siblings, husband and wife and just people.
  • Smart marketers own the category benefit: Food is an effective way to share our goodness. This is the underlying emotional benefit of food, besides its ability to sustain us physically. By linking Nestlé to this underlying category benefit, Nestlé looks bigger, more purposeful and more relevant to life than just being a food manufacturer.
  • Break The Mold: Somewhere a client or a series of clients made some bold calls. First, they decided to launch the campaign online. Second, they approved story lines where the brand is the hero without the product being the hero or appearing all over the story. Third, they approved scripts that took on out of the ordinary topics. And finally, they understood that we live in a connected world and had their agencies seed, enable and leverage sharing.
  • Recognize and leverage the power of new media: Many marketers see digital and new media – even today in India and often around the world – as an after thought, an add-on or something one does to claim it is in the plan. The reality is that in places like India, which is the second largest market for Facebook with 100 million users (also Twitter’s and Linked In’s second largest market) and a highly mobile (soon in India 250 million smart phones), new media is as much media as old media and can allow for far more flexibility to create and distribute an idea. Why not start with the idea first and then determine the media rather than starting with the :30 or the print ad?
The only thing I will say is that "Good" and "goodness" are starting to become meaningless the more brands use them. As Anthony Bourdain would say, "it's ubiquitous".

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bad tagline and creepy characters for QSR brands

Yesterday, USA Today reported that Burger King is changing its tagline from "Have It Your Way" to "Be Your Way".

I think this is terrible.

What the hell does "be your way" really mean?

The author of the article surmises that it:
reflects the drumbeat Millennial theme of customization — which has been core to Burger King for decades. (Burger King says a Whopper sandwich, for example, technically can be ordered 221,184 different ways.)...Just maybe the new slogan puts BK slightly more in tune with the more Millennial-friendly slogans at McDonald’s (“I’m Loving It”) and Taco Bell (“Live Mas”).
I'm not really sure what makes these taglines more "Millennial" than anything else. Really what does that mean? I get the customization but how is "Be your way" more tied to that theme than "Have it your way"? I get much more of a customization message from the original than the new line.

SVP of Global Brand Management was quoted in a phone interview, saying, “We want to be talked about and connected to pop culture. We want to be an iconic brand way beyond quick-service restaurants.”

Ok, I get that. But it's really not clear how this shift to an existentialist way of "being" has anything to do with the brand's goals. In fact, getting away from a tagline that has been ingrained in culture for the past 40 years and moving to something softer and more nebulous could actually be more harmful. But only time will tell.

Another recent announcement in the QSR arena comes from McDonald's, who is adding a new animated happy meal character named, what else, Happy. Happy has been used in France since 2009 and across parts of Europe and Latin America since.

Can anyone else say CREEPY? Suiting pair perhaps to the creepy new Ronald as well.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Creating ads is kinda like making bread.

Think about creating ads and making bread have a lot in common.
Get the ingredients ready.
Strategy is like lining up your ingredients. Bakers measure out all their ingredients. Advertisers gather data points about their customers.

Mix the ingredients together.
Just like making a dough, crafting the creative brief is about bringing the components of your research together with client goals.

Let it rise.
The proofing process of breadmaking is like the ideation process of creativity.

Roll it out and shape it.
Apply the concepts to all the various media available.

Bake it.
Create it and bring the idea to life.

Eat it.
Analyze how well you did. Analytics might not be as tasty as a crunchy loaf of baguette, but it all depends on your point of view. I would say that it can be.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Evolving vs. Reengineering Campaigns

Have you ever thought about old, classic advertising? There are numerous campaigns which have had a lasting effect, long after they have stopped running and the brand has moved on in another direction. A few years ago,  Alka Seltzer and Orville Reddenbacher brought back some of their old and well-known advertising, for good or bad (Digitized Orville was creepy).

Sometimes I wonder if in fact, we push to change ad campaigns well before they are ready to go and die in a back shelf somewhere, only to satisfy our own needs to create. Of course, someone told these brands that their advertising was stale and needed to be refreshed. And in some cases this may be true. But I don't think in all instances. There maybe new ways to update a solid thought behind an ad campaign that could continue for a long time.

There is strength in consistency and sometimes too often marketing and advertising messages are changed for no real reason. Usually it's because a new ad agency has acquired the account and wants to put their mark on it with something new and shiny. And that's all fine and dandy, but that can also be done by continuing on the path set up by a predecessor as well.

In some instances, if the idea was big enough, all it takes is evolving the concept vs. starting over from scratch. The ideas that are based on a truth that still exist can still survive. But if the truth has changed, then the idea needs to as well.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Creativity Is Hard

Let's admit it. Creativity is hard. It can be exhausting just as much as it can be thrilling.

I've worked with non-creatives who understood that. They get that it takes time to craft something. And that the muses aren't always smiling down upon us with inspiration. But I've also worked with folks who think it shouldn't be that hard--sadly both creatives and non-creatives. They figure they can type on a keyboard so they can write or that they look at pictures so they know design.

What it really comes down to though is that good creative is a combination of strategy and creativity. And that makes it much more complicated.

Finding a great photo or making a cool design isn't enough. Writing the most hilarious script or headline isn't enough. It has to tie back into the strategy. It has to feel fresh. It needs to have an element of surprise.

Now, there are some people I've worked with who would rather back in to a strategy. And that makes my skin crawl. It's just not the way to do things. The strategy of who you're talking to, why the hell they should care, or behavioral or cultural attitudes is really key to coming up with smart, effective and good creative. Creative briefs should include this information. All too often, they tend to end up with generic, useless information that doesn't help drive anything creative.

In those instances, I've taken it upon myself to hunt down strategic thinking I can employ in the work. Research isn't always easy. It can take away from being in the "creative zone", if you will. But it's invaluable and very necessary, especially if you don't have a team of strategists providing you with usable insights. At my last agency, I was probably the only creative who was accessing eMarketer, Forrester, or the like.

Sure, there are times when an idea just comes to you and it really is effortless. But it's not the norm. The headlines, the visuals, the user experience...they are things that are slaved over by people who are looking to find the best way to do something. And you can tell sometimes when a TV spot or even banner ad has been picked apart to the point that there is no idea left. Removing the good creative leaves nothing but a pathetic shell of a "reason to believe" with a call to action.

Even the "greats" of classical creativity like da Vinci, Van Gogh, Shakespeare, and Einstein (yes, he was creative!), had to work hard to achieve what they did. To think any other way is just absurd.
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