Archive for July, 2014

Fewer cocks in the Cabinet.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Comedian Andy Hamilton summed up how most of us feel about the injection of women into the new Cabinet when he said :”it’s nice that Cameron has discovered women so near election time.”


The reshuffle, which means that there are now 5 women in the Cabinet again (back to the level in 2011), seems to have struck the public as tokenism with a Sunday Mirror poll finding 56 per cent believe the Prime Minister brought in females for “mainly presentational reasons”.


Does the proportion of women in the Cabinet matter? Why should anyone care as long as it’s the best people for the job?  I believe in meritocracy.  I also believe in diversity.  It seems astonishing that in a democracy where women have been MPs for nearly a century that such a small proportion of them have reached Cabinet office.  I’m writing a book about women and work with Kathryn Jacob.  One of our arguments is that it is about time that the gender mix of the senior management of businesses should match that of the UK population.  Ie 50:50. We cannot be alone in believing this should also be true of UK government, ie that we should see a Cabinet where half are women, as a matter of course, and not in the position where we’re remarking on and celebrating that there are 5?


The tone of the news coverage has hardly been helped by the Daily Mail’s “Downing Street Catwalk” including the comment that Liz Truss looked “bright and sensible but a little too eighties air hostess”.


Well done Nick Clegg with his Tweet selfie: “What I wore to the office today.  Fingers crossed the Mail approves.  Hope I don’t look too ’80s cabin attendant.”


Gender balance should matter to businesses and by extension to government.  Statistics show that while tokenism doesn’t work (ie just employing 1 or 2 senior women), companies who have several women in senior management improve profitability and overall performance.


There’s lots of research proving this including a report in the FT from the Swedish Corporate Governance Board showing the positive relationship between the fraction of female board members and sales growth, returns on stock, equity, assets, and invested capital: “A board does itself a disservice by being too homogeneous”.


Any board, any government will thrive on diversity.  It is time that we take steps to ensure that gender balance is represented in proportion.  Those steps will be explained in detail in our book, but include understanding what is really going on (consciously and unconsciously) and strategies for women, men and business leaders (and government) for change.



“One night stand” or “Secret affair”?

Thursday, 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) !

Wednesday, 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.