Archive for January, 2016

What does your email style say about you?

Friday, January 29th, 2016

cat phoneDelivering a point in person is quite different from saying something on email.  I’ve known people be enraged on reading a communication from a much loved colleague because their normal smiley manner of delivering a terse comment is missing from the written word.

The opposite can of course also be true.  Do you find yourself automatically apologising for having a difference of opinion or daring to ask a question.

“Do you regularly use the words “just,” “sorry,” and “I think” in your emails? You may be undermining yourself and the message you’re trying to send.”  Well now, of course, there’s a digital tool for either circumstance.

Cyrus Innovation have built a plug in for Gmail that highlights “sorrys”, “I thinks” and “I’m not an expert but” on draft emails.  CEO, Tami Reiss was prompted by debate about women and their tone of voice in the workplace.  She says:” We had all inadvertently fallen prey to a cultural communication pattern that undermined our ideas. As entrepreneurial women, we run businesses and lead teams — why aren’t we writing with the confidence of their positions?”   This is far from exclusively a gender issue however. In fact, sorry, but self-deprecation and apologetic tones may be an issue of national stereotypes, a dim echo of Bertie Wooster saying “Sorry, old chap” without meaning to be apologetic at all.  Clearly flexibility and being above all conscious of how you might come across in email is crucial.

In the thousands of emails that flow through the system you can be enraged, entertained or appalled in all kinds of ways.  Hate emoticons? Love them? Think they belong to teenagers?  Think “How are you” at the beginning of an email is wasting time?  Can’t stand people who give you one word answers without acknowledging you as a person?

The Crystal Email Assistant analyses people’s personalities and tells you how to write them a convincing email suggesting for instance that you “appeal to her feelings” or “send lots of information” or alternatively “no more than 3 sentences required”.

People form a view about you from your email.  So do businesses and marketers of course.  Yahoo’s Jeff Bonforte believes that email will get more “intimate”, and connect us even more emotionally.  As it does of course it will be able to reveal more and more about us. The data that can be understood from the billions of emails flowing through the system will be one of the best sources of information that can continue to help business with more precise targeting, appropriate messaging and indeed forecasting.  Over 100 billion emails are sent every day.  Insight from this vast swathe of information might be a controversial issue (though data is anonymous), but will also be fascinating.  Apparently for instance you can better predict the weather in New York by what emails say about needing an umbrella that day than the weather forecasts can.  Attitudes to risk, fun, love and shopping will all be evident. Understanding and emotional insight, from millions of emails.  All the better for insurers, retailers, marketers, creative briefs, programmatic and return on investment.

Champion moves

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Dewey-Finn-School-of-RockThe 1997 advert for the Teacher Training Campaign: “No-one forgets a good teacher” resonated with lots of us because of course it is absolutely true.

My best teacher at school was Miss Stott.  She was only 4 foot 8, close to retirement and built like a sparrow but at the sound of her high heels tapping down the corridor the otherwise usually St Trinians like atmosphere of the fifth form calmed into complete submission and everyone paid attention.

The chemistry teacher had no chance on the other hand.  However impressive her qualifications and whatever her knowledge she had no opportunity to impart anything to us because she never had any control of the class and she knew it.

We’re inspired by teachers on stage and in film. From Dead Poets Society for example: “No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world” to The History Boys: ““One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try and tell them.”

There’s one of Maggie Smith’s first great roles as Miss Jean Brodie who memorably states ““It is well, when in difficulties, to say never a word, neither black nor white. Speech is silver but silence is golden.”

The gulf between the great teacher however and the average one is enormous.  Now one man is attempting to change this with an unconventional and controversial training programme to teach the teachers the moves and tactics for greatness.

Author Doug Lemov has produced a detailed recipe for success for “Teaching like a Champion” which has impressed many although others have criticised it for demonising some and being too formulaic.  If you read through the tactics though what becomes clear is that there is a huge number of them that you can apply to other situations where you need to command the attention of people in a room.  So if you don’t always feel like a champion when you give a presentation at work, deliver a new business pitch or a speech at a conference there are techniques in Lemov’s work that you can borrow for success.

Missouri’s Education Evaluator System lists a series of proven techniques from Lemov which are useful to keep up your sleeve to roll out if attention flags in your big moment.  They include: “Circulate – move around the room”.  There’s huge power in coming away from the podium or the front of the room.  “Check for understanding”, don’t keep harping on about programmatic and big data without ensuring everyone is with you! Ask for group response, getting the audience to answer in unison can be fantastic for the energy in the room and if all the other speakers have just been talking at the audience it can have fabulous impact. He suggests that you create a “Vegas” moment – use lights and sound to change the mood.  If the budget will stretch, bring on the dancing girls!  My favourite of his tactics?  And one which is very difficult to deliver…………..


“The Wait”.


Say nothing.  Delay a few strategic seconds to create more impact than any amount of talking can.


Here’s 16 predictions for 2016

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
  1. nyeMore adblockers used by more people. Not because people hate advertising, not because advertising is more intrusive than it used to be.  Whether these two things are true or not is irrelevant.  It is because ads slow things down that you really want to get at.  Some news sites and magazines take four times longer to download because of the advertising.  No-one wants that.  Why wouldn’t you adblock if that is the case?  The solution? Not meaningful ads, not better targeted ads.  Better or more appropriate application of technology.  That works in mobile: smartphones and ipads as well as desktop.
  2. Media budgets spent in accountable media. Accountable in terms of outcomes, not traditional media metrics.
  3. No stepchange in media research. Although we are long overdue a revolution in cross industry standards, and although many siloed media are investing in research solutions that benefit them in isolation, there is still no sign of a true cross industry solution.
  4. Customer service will transform how people think of brands. I was on hold to a financial service institution for 40 minutes last week, but they assured me that my call was very important to them, so that made it ok.    Next year sees the launch of a bank with no bricks and mortar.  Designed to service the customer.
  5. Less spin, more authenticity. Brands that sell with stories about warmth and empathy that their creative agencies have made up, will underperform versus brands that deliver warmth and empathy and then have creative that tells brilliant stories about what they have actually done.
  6. SEO gains significance. Not just because it helps with search. But because if your product delivers in natural search it means that it is largely doing the right things for marketing in general.
  7. A long overdue recognition of the importance of acting locally for national brands. A superb way to cut through the competition.  Also we are not one nation, Chelsea and Tottenham aren’t equivalent, let alone Durham and Swansea.
  8. A continued shift in how trends form. The traditional canon of influence – published critics and trend setters – gives way to a constantly changing set of internet self published influencers.
  9. The power of friendly and respectful communications strategies for competitive standout. Brands must be friendly to their fans and followers.  If you speak out for a brand then you expect to be thanked, liked, retweeted etc and recognised.  One way comms will not do.  Reply, acknowledge, amplify.
  10. The employee brand increases in importance. What do the people closest to the brand say think and do ie those who work for the retailer, service provider or manufacturer.  Their voice is going to be recognised more and more in 16.  They are the real brand ambassadors and their views make a difference.
  11. More diversity in business and in media. The inspirational efforts of individuals such as Karen Blackett OBE, the day to day efforts of every business leader, and my next book, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work, with co-author Kathryn Jacob published in the autumn will all help to drive real change.
  12. New app ecology: the end of fragmentation and the rise of the VPA
  13. Strong women on the rise. Ditch the stereotypes.  We’re going to see a whole new set of strong women out there in 2016.
  14. The re-emergence of insight in comms planning. The industry has been focussed on, some would say obsessed with, tech and innovation at the expense of brilliant insight.  Strategies driven by the latter are the ones which have true business outcomes.  The rest is just tactics, fun in the moment.
  15. Proper use of the second screen, not just tactically but as core brand strategy.
  16. The best creatives will be media planners. The best media planners will be closing sales.

2016 Strong women rise

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

minaj2016 trend for cultural traction: Strong women on the rise.

“If she doesn’t do the challenge, then Beyonce will weep”

This is Vicky Pattison talking about Lady C’s first jungle challenge.  Vicky, who the Radio Times quaintly characterises as being famous for “getting drunk and shouting a lot on MTV’s Geordie Shore”, painted a picture of an alliance of strong women everywhere who must not let each other down.  Even if Lady C has no idea of who Beyonce is and vice versa, it’s a nice thought that they’d get on if they met, and that Lady C – the clever casting choice of this year’s ITV “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” is part of a league of strong women whether she likes it or not.  (If you haven’t watched this year’s show yet, don’t miss Lady C’s consummate consumption of crickets with a knife and fork.  Her only regret was that she had omitted to wear her pearls whilst dining.)


This is not the only current outing of strong women in media.  Hunger Games is storming the box office in the US and the franchise is opening a dystopian theme park in Dubai.  The rides will include a “lavish” rollercoaster, built to imitate the train in which Katniss and Peeta make the dark journey to the Capitol. Thrilling.


Katniss, the heroine of the franchise, is a fighter of course.  So is Lady C.


Strong, assertive, competitive women.


Strong women who are everywhere, except, as JWT’s Pashley points out here, in advertising: “So few heroic models of women in advertising”.


Cultural stereotypes still are also all over the place however that show women exclusively as passive creatures, nurturing and good at relationships.  These stereotypes can lead to big missed opportunities in branding and business. In the Hofstede model of intercultural communications styles, an otherwise very useful tool for understanding cultural differences, one of the categories is “masculinity”.  This is defined as “cultures where people value achievement and competitiveness, as well as acquisition of money and other material objects”. Which we must take to mean that femininity is not concerned with achievement. Not about winning.


In the board room these stereotypes still sometimes means that the only woman, or the first woman, on the board is the HR director.


Brands who don’t embrace the notion of strong women will find themselves out of sync with millions and adrift from a huge wave of cultural traction.


Recent archeological discoveries can confirm that these notions of what defines masculinity and femininity are not innate.


Early civilisations just didn’t work like that.  Thanks to new techniques all the assumptions about how men and women once lived are being re-written.  Ancient burial sites are being redefined by modern forensics.  For over a century, from the earliest days of excavation in the name of science, if a grave was found with weapons in it, the skeleton was always assumed to be that of a man.  DNA testing now proves that a significant proportion in some sites actually contain the bones of women fighters.  Strong women have been literally fighters since antiquity.  In her book “The Amazons, lives and legends of warrior women across the ancient world” author Adrienne Mayor writes that in Scythian graves of dating from the Iron Age nearly a quarter of the women were warriors.  The condition of the skeletons shows that these women were fighters not exclusively home makers.  An excavation at Hadrian’s Wall has uncovered two skeletons, they are believed to be cavalry officers because of the artefacts, they are now known to be women.


We can assume that they certainly valued achievement and competitiveness and perhaps the acquisition of material objects.


It is long past time to throw away gender stereotypes.  Brands and businesses must understand that we all identify across the whole spectrum of masculinity and femininity as they are currently defined.   Strong women are on the rise as Minaj proclaims (at A&E and iHeartMedia’s Shining a Light concert on November 20).


If you’re planning content or comms to target women in 2016 don’t miss out on this trend.


Apps are dead, long live the app

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

appThe balance of power is shifting because of a step-change in how people search.  This change is enormous. It must inform our planning for brands.

Search is changing

The App is the start place for search now in many cases.  44% of product searches start on Amazon not Google according to Brian Beck, SVP of Guidance.   21% of shoppers go directly to the retailer’s site.  34% start on a search engine.  If they need to, they’ll search broadly.  If they don’t they’ll plump for the more convenient option of in-App search.

The answer isn’t just to create an App.

According to data from ComScore 65% of us aren’t downloading multiple Apps anymore.  We’re mainly making do with whatever comes with our phone.   What if we don’t like the Apps that come with the phone ? (I probably have a dozen that I can’t delete, don’t use and don’t want).  That’s when you download the App of your choice that you will frequently use.  If you have a brand App but can’t secure App distribution on the phone as supplied, the App will need to be strong in order to be added.  Can marketing comms create consumer demand for your app that will drive distribution?  In the analogue world this is comms strategy 101.  Any planner working on a brand with less than perfect retail distribution will ask whether the comms strategy can help with the trade argument for distribution in the bricks and mortar supermarket?  If you can’t get good distribution your brand has to be supernaturally strong.  Few brands in the old paradigm world would make this cut.  Consider how few brands you’d leave a supermarket branch for because it didn’t stock something in particular.  (Ketchup maybe in my house… what else?)

The App is the future.

As Group M CDO and North America Chair, Rob Norman points out we are approaching “the end of fragmentation and a return to scale”.  Those Apps that win out on our phones will dominate the comms systems for brands.  Norman points to “a new power structure in advertising. Some pillars like Facebook and Google are in place, but the rise of retailer as media owner, and service players (like Uber and Airbnb) has yet to play out to anything like its full extent.”

Meanwhile the App economy is in evolution too as App developers seek to get their product incorporated into Facebook or Google Maps at code level.

The next generation App is your VPA.

Jamie Carter of TechRadar forecasts the evolution of the App into the Virtual Personal Assistant or Smart Agent.  A kind of super-charged Siri this Agent will roam across the internet of things for you, making your life simpler and solving real problems, not just answering dumb questions for you.  (A bit like Spike Jonze’s vision in Her, or maybe Him!) This digital assistant will spend money for you, make decisions for you. The job of the comms plan will include making sure that the brand has relevance here.   There will be brands and categories where your personal brand preference will overrule the digital assistant.  There will be others where the algorithm will decide for you.

The system for communications for every brand must evolve depending on hardware and software developments and, most importantly, consumer convenience.  All of which is set to change further and change fast.

Every consumer is a search expert, they understand the best way to search.  So every planner needs to be one too.