Archive for January, 2012

The Innovation Axiom or the Innovation Trap.

Monday, January 30th, 2012

picture source: wikipedia

There’s one question for which everyone will give the same affirmative answer at the moment.

Do you need more innovation in your business?

Imagine saying “No, we have more than enough innovation, in fact we’ve got more innovation than we can manage”.

You wouldn’t be much of a manager in this day and age if that was your answer would you?

(It’s a bit like asking someone at the tail end of the Christmas season if they’d like to be healthier.  You just know everyone will say Yes which is why health drinks and gyms do so well in January.)

So the answer is Yes, but in truth we need to be more careful with the question as Innovation has many meanings.

A love of Innovation is nothing new.  According to Armand D’Angour (Classics Fellow and Tutor at Jesus Oxford) the term was coined by comic playwright Aristophanes in 422 BC.   ( ). But it is a term that needs precise definition.  Aristotle (different Ancient Greek chap – see picture, philosopher, genius, said it all, or most of it anyway, back in 384-322 BC pointed out that innovation means different things depending on the area it is applied to.

Political innovation is very different from technical innovation, or cultural innovation (or innovation in reaching teenagers with some advertising.)

An innovative solution to a problem may be to apply some old or conventional thinking to an unconventional area rather than to cook up something new.

We’re hard wired to love innovation.  At its most basic that’s why we have evolved as a human race to the point we are at now… if the first humans hadn’t found fire and cooking food as an innovative solution to cold and hunger then we wouldn’t be watching Jamie Oliver cook up a feast on the TV whilst warming our ready meals in the microwave. (

Any successful business must be very precise about what kind of innovation is necessary and how fast it can deliver real change.  A love of the new must not drive out our ability to deliver the best of the now.  Don’t be afraid to run away from innovation if it is in an area that you don’t need it in.  Don’t focus the entire workforce on watching for or adopting new trends when applying expertise and experience is actually what is needed.

This year, next year.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Picture source:

The latest Group M forecasts for 2012 for the UK arrived on my desk early last week.  There’s been a bit of publicity for the headlines, although not much has changed since the summer edition.  ( , contact :

Despite the continued doldrums in which consumer confidence is mired the document is reasonably optimistic.  Growth of 3% is predicted for the UK although that depends on the Eurozone crisis being contained.  Points of growth lie in TV, outdoor of course in what the report calls “an unusually outdoorsy year which includes the Euro football, the summer Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee” and online.

Embedded in the report, perhaps hidden by the stability of the overall numbers, there lie the seeds of a revolution. 

The National Newspaper section (this year net media £ -6%, next year -3%) contains a call for a new trading model.  It suggests that there is room for a new system that introduces optimisation and makes the market more efficient. 

A new model would be likely to “change the relationship between vendor, agency and client from the existing linear and sometimes adversarial one into a more collaborative triangular partnership” with the outcomes including improved rates for advertisers, but perhaps winners and losers amongst publishers.

There is a new ceo at the Newspaper Marketing Agency (  – Rufus Olins (  I wonder whether his mandate includes instigating a trading revolution ?

2012 IS THE YEAR OF … ?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

picture source :

It is not the Year of the mobile.  Lots of people have smart phones, tablets etc.  Nearly everything will be QR coded or the equivalent (yesterday I walked past a building site with a QR code the size of a window.  My companion asked “How is anyone going to scan that into their phone?”  The better question is will anyone bother?)  HTML5 will make the user experience of advertising rock.  Increased use of geo-location targeting will make relevancy more spiky.

It is not the Year of connected televisions.  There are lots of connected TVs in the home and lots more in the shops now.  If you buy a new expensive TV these days it is impossible to buy one which does not connect to the internet in fact.  This week’s CES show in Vegas features lots of internet connected TVs including the “future-proof” voice controlled, internet connected TV from Samsung with facial recognition, voice recognition (in more than 20 languages) and free access to a whole channel dedicated to Angry Birds !  (Other exciting product development news from CES includes “Body Media” and “Escort Live” – calm down Spearmint Rhino aficionados they are healthcare and traffic products).

It is not the Year of Celebrations – although the UK is set to party.  With the Jubilee, Euro 2012, the Olympics and a general swing to home entertaining there will be plenty of parties.  IPC Connect MD Fiona Dent has described the heightened need to celebrate that she has seen in her readers.  If the economy is depressed then why not party with friends to cheer yourself up?  After all it is easier than ever to arrange to get together.

So what is 2012?  2012 is in fact the Year of People Power. 

It is the year when people can find out what they want to find out with a few touches of their smart phones, whenever they want to and wherever they are.  It’s the year when the opinions of people like us influence what we think more than ever thanks to social media and new apps like Zeebox.  When we can buy a brand that appeals to us instantly and dismiss a brand that has let us down publically.  When according to Arif people set the news agenda via Twitter rather than press barons ( .   2012 is the year people become more demanding of good service and experiences and less tolerant than ever of inconvenience or dull corporate spin.

See’s top 12 trends for 2012 which include “Point and know” – instant visual information gratification and “Flawsome” which describes the competitive advantage that lies in adding authenticity to communications this year.

2012 is the Year of People Power.

First Day Back ?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

“In her case intensity was heaped on intensity”. This is Spectator columnist Bruce Anderson’s comment on the portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the movie Iron Lady. (

He makes the point that for most politicians, once the business of the meeting is transacted there is an appropriate moment to lighten the mood. Not so for Thatcher, who just wanted to get on with more business.

I must admit that this is the first time more or less that any aspect of Margaret Thatcher has struck a chord with me. I have a fondness for intensity in the workplace myself. Take the mood lightening outside as far as I am concerned most of the time.

But not today, not on the first day back. Most people are wandering around struggling to adjust their body clocks which have got used to an extended lie in over the long days of the break that we manage in the Old World at this time of year. (Parents of young children are obviously excluded from this but then they never get enough sleep and are in a permanent haze of disrupted body clock fugue). It’s not like this in the US – they’ve been hassling me for deadlines for my book edit throughout the Christmas period.

Normally when you come back from a break, it’s a question of re-aligning to a busy office and getting back into the swing of things. This takes two, three hours at most. But for the first few days of January nearly everyone has messed with their body clock and most people are relaxed. So the normal swing of things isn’t even normal.

Given that we usually need to break people out of their normal routine in order to get them to be creative, this strikes me as a genius time of year to have creative brainstorms. To tear up any plans put to bed in a rush in the dying days of the previous year and to start anew with a relaxed and therefore creative alternative perspective.

I don’t want to rush anyone but this isn’t going to last long…. Wake up (a bit) and get creative !