“One night stand” or “Secret affair”?

July 17th, 2014

News breaks this week that Air New Zealand is withdrawing its safety video after thousands signed an online petition claiming it was “culturally insensitive”.  What could possibly offend in a set of bikini clad Sports Illustrated models telling you to keep your safety belt fastened !? It’s still available at You Tube for you to check out whether it offends you or not.


The airline claims it is not withdrawing the video because travellers find it inappropriate but simply as part of a regular refresh.  It seems likely that the airline may have misjudged its relationship with its customers – perhaps some relationship counselling is needed.


A study by Jill Avery, Susan Fournier, and John Wittenbraker in July’s HBR looks at customer relationship management through the twofold lenses of big data and emotional understanding.


They define customers into groups that range from the “One night stand”, through “Fling”, “Fleeting Acquaintances”, “Dealer/Addict”, “Buddies”, “Marriage on the rocks” to “Old Friends”.  Each correlates with the potential price premium that can be justified and market share.  They suggest that “For instance, customers looking for a one-night stand with the brand are generally willing to pay a higher premium than those who see themselves as colleagues of the brand.”


A “One night stand” is of course a customer that just buys the brand occasionally, but with passion, and as a betrayal of the normal brand they buy.  Understood properly there’s great potential to drive frequency there.  The authors characterise adults who eat cheesy snack Cheetos as in a “Secret Affair” with the brand commenting that :” they relished the snack’s bright orange color, funny shapes, cheesy messiness, and even the telltale residue on their hands (licking their fingers made them feel they were breaking the rules)”.


This understanding should inform every aspect of communication with the brand, and it’s possible that Air NZ simply thought, or wishes to think, of its customers as buddies when in fact they’re more like casual acquaintances.  It’s important to get it right or the brand and customer relationship is going to be undermined.


This is a much richer way to define customers, and potential customers, than traditional segmentation, and it is informed by ethnographic research and social monitoring as well as data.  Just as you treat your friends, colleagues and relations differently depending on the underlying nature of the relationship, so a brand should develop different rules of communication relating to emails, service requirements, call centre scripts, offers, pricing, comms strategies and of course advertising.    In a “Fling” the brand needs to offer novelty and excitement.  Seasonal product for a limited time frame is ideal.  On the other hand a brand with plenty of loyal “team mates” would want to consult on new product development and offer previews of new advertising campaigns.


Service expectations from customers are higher than any time for several decades.  They’re growing all the time.  The brands that are able to use big data to form clear empathetic strategies for their customers are the ones that will have a competitive edge.



Don’t exploit the stack, if you should be exploiting the mesh (and vice versa) !

July 2nd, 2014

If you haven’t spent half an hour in the company of brilliant and charming, Controller of Commercial Digital Products at ITV, Jon Block, then I suggest you do so at once.


He’s got a list of user needs from the second screen while watching TV which is well worth contemplating.


How we exploit the second screen whilst the TV is on is surely now the essence of TV planning.  It is a question that should come as a delight to those realists amongst media agencies who have always known that most people do not spend their time watching the TV glued to the screen in adulation and admiration.  To those of us who have long known that the way in which most creative work is judged in a meeting – in a darkened room, with everyone focussing on the screen and in isolation from any other distractions, let alone other adverts – is completely artificial.  Thinkbox have plenty of analysis of how the second screen turns TV into point of sale, and certainly point of more information gathering.  TV advertising however is still too often being conceived and produced as if it was being watched in the way that was the norm in 1964, ie everyone clustered round and paying good attention.


As MediaCom’s heads of planning Chris Binns and Steve Gladdis pointed out at our client conference last month, redefining the commercial application of TV advertising and sponsorship is crucial to success, and the deeper the partnership and the more we exploit the whole system as it works together the better.


Chris rightly points out that we need to be clear whether we are trying to exploit meshing or stacking and that it is vital that we don’t confuse them.  (Believe me, you don’t want to mesh when you should stack!)


Then success depends on the incentives to interact, the barriers to entry and the clarity of the calls to action.  There really is no room for subtlety in this, not if we want to exploit it at scale.


So back to Jon Block’s user needs: Is it Sharing, Control and Discovery, Curiosity, Enhancing, Reward, Contributing or Closeness that we want to exploit ?


Last week I added an fmcg item to my online grocery basket then and there because the ad took my fancy.  That is however the first time I have done this all year.  I, and millions like me, now watch TV with a second screen in my hand.  There will be a limit to how many immediate calls to action that we’ll respond to, but hardly anyone is asking us for an immediate action clearly, specifically and persuasively yet.


We have a long list of established rules of thumb for how TV works.  Now that TV is open to so many connections those heuristics may well stand in our way if we’re not rethinking how the whole communication system works.






Always keep moving forward.

June 26th, 2014

At our conference this week we heard case studies of two connected partnerships which truly use TV to its full advantage.


Both Iceland’s sponsorship of I’m a celebrity and WKD’s association with TOWIE make the most of ITV and every kind of second screen.


They also both had a massive impact on the trade relationships and employees.


Normally we consider a sponsorship’s impact primarily on the target consumer for the brand.  But Nick Canning of Iceland pointed out the enormous benefit that the association with I’m a Celebrity has on staff morale (what could be better than a visit from Peter Andre) and at sales conferences.  A Bush Tucker trial for management at the conference can’t be beaten.


The theme of the day, at South Bank Studios overlooking the River Thames, was about Connections.  Media doesn’t work in silos, business doesn’t work in silos, life doesn’t work in silos.  We heard a number of speakers talk about the importance of connections professionally and personally.  And although the theme of the conference was about building better connections, working the whole system and not just each silo, a lot of the speakers talked about bravery, about authenticity and about growth.  As Nick Canning said “I believe you should never accept what you’ve got, always keep moving forward.”


The most emotional moment of the morning (apart from watching Joey Essex watch himself walk on water), was hearing from Simon Daglish and Jaco Van Gass about walking to the North Pole.  Simon’s charity Walking with the Wounded has not only raised money in a super connected way, but has also changed attitudes to the wounded.  Jaco, one of the heroes from the show, said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it”.  Given how much Jaco has had to deal with from recovering from severe wounds to walking to the North Pole and climbing Everest, this was extremely motivating.  He said “You have to take steps, so I thought, first learn to walk again, then get rid of the colostomy bag, then walk to the North Pole”.  Wow.


We all need to take steps forward, and never be satisfied with the status quo.



We must pray that God is on England’s side because the ref won’t be.

June 19th, 2014

The ex-chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells a story that when he was appointed he discovered that he shared a love of Arsenal with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They decided to have their first official meeting in the box at the next game.  Where Arsenal lost, and lost badly.  The papers picked up on the story, saying that this was surely proof that God did not exist if both such eminent religious leaders went to the game but Arsenal still didn’t win.  Sacks replied by saying that on the contrary, it was surely proof that God was a Man U fan.


It is to be hoped that She is also an England fan.  And that media men and women find time to pray for England’s chances this week.  (Those not busy quaffing rose in Cannes that is).  For certainly England can expect no favour from any referee.  Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim in their book Scorecasting, look at common behavioural biases that effect the outcome of sports games.


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that they’d discovered that the loyalty of fans could dis-incentivise management from investing in improving performance.  They also demolish the myth of the Home Team advantage on players, but prove statistically that it is the ref that is affected, and often during games where the Home Team is at a slight disadvantage.  Brazil’s awarded penalty in their opening game – what most are calling a lucky decision – seems exactly an example of ref bias.


“We’ve found is that officials are biased, confirming years of fans’ conspiracy theories.  But they’re biased not against louts screaming unprintable epithets at them.  They’re biased for them, and the bigger the crowd, the worse the bias.  In fact, officials’ bias is the most significant contributor to home field advantage.”


Their evidence is based on analysis of 750 La Liga games studied by academics and reviewing over 15,000 games in the English Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga and the Scottish League.  The bias only happens in games that are close, not where the Home Team is significantly ahead or behind, just like Brazil v Croatia, a “soft penalty” awarded at one all.


When the crowd shout at the players they don’t affect the outcome.  When they yell at the ref, that’s another matter.






Inspired by your team

June 12th, 2014

This week saw the anniversary of the D Day landings.  The invasion of Normandy that changed the course of the Second World War.


Coverage in The Guardian said  “Seventy Normandy summers ago, as the ships and planes and gliders disgorged 156,000 on to beaches and into the smoke, flames and barrage of mortar fire, victory was uncertain. So was survival. No-one escaped unscathed.”


This anniversary is said to be the last when survivors could return in large numbers.


It was a moment of real courage and bravery for thousands of soldiers. On a day of immense danger for all, there was still one who stood out.  One soldier, the only soldier at D Day, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the military.


Stan Hollis was a 31-year-old sergeant major with the Green Howards when he took part in the assault on Gold Beach.


As his company moved inland, he captured several gun positions and rescued two colleagues, taking more than two dozen prisoners in the process and clearing a path for his colleagues.


Brigadier John Powell said: “Stan continued along a communication trench, and by that stage the Germans had had enough, probably it was the terrifying sight of seeing Stan charging towards them.


“In all there were about 30 prisoners.


“Now this action was immensely successful, not only did he save the lives of many in his company but by his actions he allowed this route up to the beach to be cleared.


“That was important for the success of D-Day.”


His reputation  and feats live on in Normandy.  In fact it’s said that he’s more famous in Normandy than in his home town of Middlesborough.


He was by all accounts an unassuming man, as many true heroes are.


He rarely spoke about what he had done.  In one interview however he typically downplayed his bravery saying and talked about his team of men: “All these fellows were my mates… I had lived with them.  Apart from the fact of being in the Army I had lived with them in civvy street before.  We knew, well, everybody knew everybody else, and there wasn’t only me doing these things there were other people who were doing them as well and the things I did.  If I hadn’t done them somebody else would have done them.  There is no doubt about it. It was just a case of not who would do it, it was just when it was done, and it would have been done by somebody else.”


He summed up the event by saying that though people called him an inspiration he was in fact inspired by his men.


Although nothing in our business compares with Hollis’s actions, this last comment resonates.  There is never a training event that I’m involved in when the trainees are not immensely inspiring.  The reward for judging a competition at work, whether it’s a mini pitch (our Real World Pitching annual training scheme is one of these) or presentation skills, or role reversals and the rest, is the inspiration you get from the participants.


People sometimes comment or complain about inspirational leaders or the lack.  Your team around you are reliably, genuinely and uniquely inspirational.