The new and unprecedented challenge for brands

August 2nd, 2018

startrekpicTo boldly go, where no brand has gone before.

Brands are facing an existential threat like no other.  Exactly how it will play out and how soon the question.  As Twitter’s Bruce Daisley said on MediaCom’s Connected Podcast recently (and out soon here), it’s impossible to predict the next twenty years, just as twenty years ago we had no idea about what life and work would be like today.  Yet we can be clear about one thing.  There’s change to come that will make navigating the challenges of today look easy.

You can point the finger at Star Trek for some of this disruption. It’s Captain Kirk who inspired one of the great changes that will challenge current orthodoxies about brands.  William Tunstall-Pedoe is the engineer and tech start up founder who taught Amazon’s Alexa how to talk.  He acknowledges that his inspiration was the talking computer on the Star Ship Enterprise.  His definition of his job as an engineer is to close the gap between science fiction and reality.  Of course Captain Kirk’s relationship with the computer running the star ship was largely benign.  (There was the episode with the evil computer Nomad, but Kirk talked it down, luckily for the galaxy).

Tunstall-Pedoe is optimistic about the future of voice.  In future everything that you do via tech you will do simply by asking.  Already millions of households worldwide have voice tech products.  Many people have already made them part of the family, anthropomorphically telling them good night.  What this means is more change.  Tunstall-Pedoe notes that all change means risk, but urges keeping risk in perspective and believes that voice tech will change people’s lives for the better.

We must all hope that the risks will be managed, that malware will stay under control and that change will be for the good.  At the same time we must plan for the worst.

In the world of media and marketing one of the worst outcomes may be the disappearance of some brands.

We have been through several eras of advertising.  In the 1950s we were in the age of interruption, when consumers were happy to pay attention to ads because they sought the reassurance of brand names and trusted what businesses said to them.  From the 1960s to the 1980s we were in the age of entertainment.  People would still pay attention to ads but only if they were entertaining.  For the last couple of decades of the 20th century we were in the age of engagement.  The rise in media channels meant that reaching people at the right time in the right place with the right message was key to successful comms.  The early 21st century was the dawn of the age of dialogue where millions of dialogues between consumers shapes their opinions of brands.  Where what a brand says about itself is just one factor in brand salience together with every other aspect of the customer journey from search, social, influencers, reviews, sourcing, authenticity, employee brand, service and experience to repeat purchase and loyalty.

Most purchase journeys are still predominantly visual.  Brands are designed with those visual cues in mind.  If voice dominates things change.  Maybe only the strongest brands will survive.  There will be categories where consumers defer to the voice tech assistant.  The question to ask is what is it about the brand that will ensure that it continues to cut through.  To be one of the brands that stick in the consumer’s brain so that they don’t just buy the category they buy the brand.

Voice will shift the balance of power and techniques to thrive will be essential.  As Mr Spock pointed out “Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them.” 

Brand strategy now must plan for the worst to ensure that the brand survives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s how Cannes got serious this year

June 29th, 2018

tesco_-_grand_prixSerious about business.

The best of the work this year curated in the MediaCom suite had business success running right through it. Sure the collection of work had plenty of stunts littering it still, but the cream of work that rose to the top included fabulous strategic thinking.

This is of course true of the winner of the Media Grand Prix, MediaCom and BBH’s work for Tesco Food Love Stories. A campaign that drove sales for Tesco at an unprecedented rate.

There was lots discussion about best practice for the future of our business. The impact of voice on marketing came up in a number of sessions. Whilst it’s a long way from taking over, the role of a voice personal assistant is already changing some consumers lives. There’s lots to learn about what needs to be done, but every brand should begin to think now about whether their memory structures are sufficient for stand out without visuals and where a purchase decision will be based on just a couple of options spoken by Alexa rather than on scanning a shelf full of product.

 

Serious about meaning.

I watched the full Glass Lion shortlist with my co-curator (and co-author of The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business) Kathryn Jacob OBE. The vast majority of entries this year were about gender equality. As we showed the work to our guests, clients and worldwide colleagues in advance of the jury’s final decision we asked our audience to vote for their winner. They chose an entry from the Miss Peru competition where the finalists subverted the normal recitation of so called “vital statistics” bust ie waist and hip measurements and instead substituted truly vital stats about domestic violence in Peru. Standout and impactful.  As was the worthy Grand Prix winner: Blood Normal

 

Serious about audience insight.

There was plenty to hear about how to reach audiences with real impact.  For one audience Viacom have developed some interesting insights about the new marketing imperatives for reaching under 35s. They point out that there’s been a step change in culture which every marketing plan needs to consider. Their point of view on the “Culture of Proximity” dissects the developments and mandates a new approach. As Maya Peterson, Viacom’s director of culture and creative insights, says of her audience: “People are acting like brands and they expect brands to act like people.”

 

Serious about partnership.

It was clear throughout Cannes week that success isn’t achievable on your own anymore. Even the disrupters are subject to disruption now, and no-one knows the path forward in isolation. Leaders today will share best practice with generosity and make strategic alliances to win. So the news of the alliance between News UK, Guardian News & Media and The Telegraph about The Ozone Project – a jointly-owned audience platform to combat industry-wide digital advertising concerns, including brand safety, data governance and ad fraud is to be welcomed. It mirrors one of the standout Titanium Lion shortlists: The Quality Journalism campaign where UNESCO created an alliance of quality news channels to recommend reading their traditional rivals rather than fighting for market share.

 

As the future continues to challenge everything at a speed that takes the breath away its important to build teams that can work together to support the growth of brands, business and meaning.

 

 

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Harry Potter guide: Better ways to work for women

June 13th, 2018

hpDon’t do everything

Don’t shape shift

  1. Don’t do everything

JK Rowling has been responsible for a generation of children learning to love literature.  In 2013 she was named a national literacy hero by the National Literacy Trust.  In her books and her films she defined femininity for a generation of girls who are now grown up.

Her heroine Hermione Grainger is cleverer than the boys.  She is also so hard working that she leaps at the magic technology of the Time Turner which allows her to go to two different classes simultaneously.  This seems very similar to the trope that working women hear about needing to work twice as hard as any man in order to succeed.  As I wrote in The Glass Wall: “existing material tends to advise women that to get on they need to work harder, be more ‘superwoman’…. This is more of what they have been doing. Meanwhile men are getting further and doing less.”  Don’t do everything, work smarter not harder.

  1. Don’t shape shift

“The veela had started to dance, and Harry’s mind had gone completely and blissfully blank. All that mattered in the world was that he kept watching the veela, because if they stopped dancing, terrible things would happen… .
And as the veela danced faster and faster, wild, half-formed thoughts started chasing through Harry’s dazed mind. He wanted to do something very impressive, right now. Jumping from the box into
the stadium seemed a good idea…” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Another example of femininity in Harry Potter are the Veela.  Veela are a race of semi-magical beings who are able to seduce men and boys at will.  For those interested they seem to be based on Slavic folklaw.  They’re shape-shifters.  Capable of charming men with their dance and their beauty, if they get annoyed they can kill with a glance.  Whilst they appear to be beautiful if they’re angry they change into harpies, vicious and ugly and terrifying.  Shape-shifting is something many women at work often feel obliged to do.  They must maintain the appearance of beauty whilst getting everything done.

It takes a huge amount of effort.  Effort spent on making sure that they look good and are approved of in every situation at the same time as working hard on the project in hand.  Going out of their way to complete tasks perfectly at the same time as looking flawless.  Smiling charmingly through whatever stress they’re under.  As Kimberley Harrington wrote in her satirical article for the New Yorker:

  • “I have two kids andthe unspoken pressure to act like they don’t exist when I’m on a conference call.”
  • “I have male colleagues who tell me I’m not aggressive enough and that I will never get what I want out of my team andfemale colleagues who tell me I’m too aggressive and that I make them sad.”
  • “I have the confidence to speak my mind, asking hard-hitting questions about the project I’m working on, andthe ability to keep my ears from bleeding when a roomful of male clients explains to me what I don’t understand about the female target audience.”

Is it too much effort to seek perfection and approval in every instance?  Of course it is.  The bar is set too high, the need for perfection is unrealistic.  We need to make it clear to women at work that shape shifting isn’t a requirement.

 

 

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Does your job pay you enough? Here’s one different way to work it out

June 1st, 2018

Slow and steady hauling by hand positions boat and net in a vertical alignment so that the winch can lift “the bag” containing the catch. The 55-foot wooden otter trawler Reneva, owned by Raymond Duarte, was spending the day dragging off Stellwagen Bank. Left to right: Russell Perry, Duarte, David Gonsalves and (partly hidden) David Carreiro. Cape Cod Times/Milton Moore

What do you go to work for?

Success is getting up and spending all day doing something you enjoy, and then getting paid for it.

There may well be a proportion of the day that you don’t enjoy.  Essentially that is the part you would only do for pay.  One way of looking at it is that this is the part you get paid for.  Because you’d do that bit of the day that you enjoy for nothing.  So if you enjoy most of the day but spend an hour a day doing something that you don’t enjoy – that’s a great daily pay rate.  Your pay per dull hour is really high.  The whole day’s pay as a reward for the one hour that you don’t enjoy.   If you spend eight hours a day doing something that you don’t enjoy, that’s dull or unpleasant – that’s relatively a terrible rate of pay per dull hour.

Research by Lightspeed GMI for The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, the best selling book about gender equality at work, showed that over 45% of the workforces of UK, Russia and US, would like to change careers.  That’s too high, there’s too many people on a terrible rate per dull hour.

Choosing the wrong business to work in starts early in life.  Nine out of ten grads change jobs by the time they are twenty-four.

Part of the problem as you start your career is that you have no idea of what work is actually going to be like.  Many undergrads will be eagerly researching careers right about now with finals looming.  The one thing they can’t know is what proportion of their job will be dull.  Or what parts of the job they’d do for nothing.

One solution of course is to ensure that there’s real meaning in the  work.  Two thirds of Brits think that it is the responsibility for brands to give back to society.  More than half of millennials state that they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.  And this group now make up the majority of employees in many companies.

Mia Vanstraelen, HR director for IBM, says that you can tell the difference in people’s enthusiasm for the day job by how they talk about it.  Their research found that there is a 125% improvement in productivity in staffers who say “I want to go to work today” versus those who say “I have to go to work today”.  This means many businesses don’t actually need more employees in a team to deliver great work but actually they need happier employees.

The upside would pay huge dividends across most workplaces, according to Vanstraelen, as stats indicate that only 15% of employees are fully “engaged” at work.

There’s hundreds of factors that come into play to help to drive this engagement, or enthusiasm.  Culture is crucial.  Purpose and meaning are very important too.

If you want more from your job, you could stop looking around (the grass may not be greener) and start measuring your pay per dull hour and see if you can take steps to improve it.  If you want more from your employees include purpose and meaning in their day jobs that mean that they’d want to do the work anyway.

 

 

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Being brave at The Marketing Society one morning in May

May 14th, 2018

marketingsocglasswallBrave and Uncomfortable.

Thursday 10th May was the time for uncomfortable conversations.  The Marketing Society held a forum to push boundaries and make braver decisions, to help each other to address the toughest issues, this time on gender at work.

Gemma introduced the session by talking about the time that I called her out about the gender diversity of the Marketing Society Conference in 2016.   I’d praised the sessions at the conference in a blog for Campaign, but I had also counted the gender balance on stage.    Shortly afterwards she took over as CEO of the society.  And then she called me on my comment, by inviting me to be part of the organising committee for last year’s conference, where women were in the majority as speakers.

Since I published my book on gender equality at work, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, with co-author Kathryn Jacob in late 2016 I’ve been on the campaign trail to get change to happen.

I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to speak at Gemma’s amazing series of Uncomfortable breakfasts.

We wrote the book because statistics show that the number of women in senior positions across the UK is significantly less than 50% (women are 51% of the population).  The current IPA census on gender in agencies shows 31% c-suite roles are held by women (a figure that is better than some sectors, but hasn’t moved on in recent years).  Less than 15% creative departments are run by women, and the number of women behind the camera for commercials is even lower.  This is in a sector where 80% of purchase decisions are made by women consumers.  78% of businesses across the UK have declared a gender pay gap in favour of men.

The weight of evidence in favour of gender balance in senior management is huge.  There are now many studies that prove that it leads to better decisions and better profit.  One simple way to boost your bottom line as a business is to have a greater proportion of women in the top team.

The session was full of lively debate, and indeed diverse opinions.  Some shared their good experiences in this respect, including Gemma, saying that they hadn’t personally experienced any gender barrier to their careers.  The quantitative evidence in The Glass Wall from a survey by Lightspeed GMI is contrary to this with nearly 80% of women agreeing that women face barriers to success in the workplace that men do not.  And nearly 70% of men agree with them.

There were so many great points made by the audience that it feels a shame not to capture at least some of them in brief.

The audience was shocked by one woman’s story that she was refused flexi working of 4.5 days when she returned from maternity leave.  Mitch Oliver from Mars spoke about the importance of turning up for sports day at your child’s school whether you’re the mum or the dad, and indeed of speaking up to share experiences of your career as a working woman to set an example for girls at school.  One member asked about extroversion and introversion as a diversity issue.  We discussed the extra help new mums need and the importance of negotiating for what you want at work whether that is flexibility or indeed a pay rise.  Lynne Parker talked about the gender divide in what is and isn’t funny at work.   Nancy Lengthorn from MediaCom raised the important issue of privilege, pointing out that many women who succeed have had the enormous benefit of a great education.  Diversity is about all kinds of inclusiveness and different backgrounds are an important factor.  She also talked about the issue of change on the production side of the creative business where there just doesn’t seem to be any desire to make a change.

Here’s perhaps where the members of the marketing society have power to make change happen today, this week.  By asking about the gender balance of the teams involved in every stage of the production of marketing materials.

Other immediate changes can come from speaking up when you see people feeling excluded.  Taking a leadership position for change and mandating real targets for gender equality at senior positions.

Gemma ended the breakfast by saying that she felt now that the issue was so crucial that there would be a part two to talk about the actions we can all take to achieve real fairness and change.  I can’t wait – I hope to see you there.

The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, is published by Profile and available at all good booksellers and on Amazon

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