Category Archives: Communication

Walk the talk. Design agencies are better at addressing the challenges of a modern business

Recent reports show that design agencies are leading growth (20% increase) in the Danish communication industry, followed by the digital agencies.

In my opinion this trend emphasizes the point that the processes of strategic design agencies are better suited to tackle the challenges of modern businesses.

The primary reason for this is in my opinion the decreasing value of traditional advertising. People don’t trust advertising, at least not as much as they trust recommendations from friends and consumer opinions expressed online. Recent stats from Nielsen again reveals word of mouth as the primary resource for decision making. 92 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising – an increase of 18 percent since 2007.

The growth in word of mouth means traditional advertising has taken a backseat when it comes to driving growth and sales. More and more companies have realized that their product, services and the experience they provide to their customers needs to be the primary focus area. If you can optimize and innovate those areas, customers will reward your efforts by sharing the positive experience with others.

This increased focus on services and products naturally puts design agencies in the drivers seat. Unlike traditional advertising and PR agencies optimizing and developing these areas is the core competence of strategic design agencies. Their processes  are centered around identifying user needs and focussed on tangible solutions that address those needs.  Unlike empty communication messages the output of their work (most often) results in value adding solutions for customers and hence the business. You can no longer hide the flaws of your product by wrapping it up in a glossy campaign. You need to ‘walk the talk’.


Why are people drawn to #KONY2012?

Today March 9th 2012 the documentary “Kony 2012” by Invisible Children is close to passing 50 mill hits on YouTube.

As the awareness of the campaign to stop Joseph Kony continues  to spread like wild fire, criticism regarding the objectives and methods of the organization Invisible Children has started to appear all over the web arguing that the organization is over-simplifying and distorting the reality of the situation in East/Central Africa.  As a co-worker of mine pointed out “As always reality is a little more messy”. History provides plenty of examples of how dangerous it is to oversimplify and not understand the full complexity of an issue.  Just thinking of the US government’s involvement in the Middle East and Vietnam will remind you of that. The geopolitical complexity of an issue and the ramifications of action is clearly something that is highly relevant to discuss in the case of Joseph Kony and the actions of his LRA rebels, but I will leave that discussion to greater political minds.

The Kony 2012 campaign is although less important also very interesting from a communications and social behavior perspective. It’s not the 50 mill hits on YouTube in it self that makes the Kony 2012 an interesting case study. What does though, is the extraordinary accomplishment in the fact that 50 million people actually consumed a piece of content on YouTube that is 29 minutes and 59 seconds long. I don’t recall that ever happening before. So why are people drawn to this particular campaign? What is it about Kony 2012 that inspires people to view, share and participate? In the following I have highlighted a couple (of probably several) reasons that I believe answers these questions.

Simplicity in communication message

The simplicity in the presentation of the campaign is key. The fact that the objective is simple to understand and digest is the first reason. “Stop Kony” is easy to understand; one man, one picture, one problem. Again the The Kony 2012 campaign may over simplify the issue, but sometimes simplifying the complex is exactly what’s needed to gain attention and raise awareness. The path or means to how you as an individual can address the issue and solve the problem is also clear (at least in the presentation and minds of the Invisible Children). Make Joseph Kony famous by watching the video, sharing the video and participating in a massive overnight poster campaign, planned for April 20, 2012.  In other words, the viewer is presented with a clear and simple problem and the tools to tackle the problem. Easy to understand and easy to relate to.

Yes we can

The second reason is the campaigns ability to evoke empowerment. Globalization has made the world smaller and every minute we are bombarded with information and impressions of suffering and injustice in places like Africa, the dangers of global warming, the potential consequences of debt crisis and so forth. As individuals it makes us uncomfortable and makes us want to do something – act! But often we end up feeling powerless to act and address these problems, believing that I alone can’t make a difference.  The Kony 2012 campaign again shows people a way and how the objective can be achieved.  It shows the audience how you can make a difference, not as an individual but as part of a collective. It shows how you are a part of a movement. The force of the many.

The Kony 2012 draws upon the exact same tools, mechanisms and rhetoric that President Obama so successfully managed to deploy in his 2008 election campaign. Obama managed to spark the hope of the people feeling powerless and became a symbol of how change can happen if people rally together. The mechanism and tools to spread the message both used by Obama and Kony 2012 is of course social media. Over the last couple of days we seen the power of those tools at work, millions of tweets and status updates from all over the world has resulted in every single news source in the world picking up on the story.

In terms of awareness and support I don’t think the Invisible Children in their wildest dreams could have imagined the amount of publicity they are currently getting. They have already achieved the objective of making Joseph Kony famous. How? by simplicity in their communication and their ability to mobilize the masses through social media and the “yes we can” attitude.

Will this campaign result in the successful removal of Joseph Kony? Maybe, Kony is indicted by the International Criminal Court and US forces have or will be deployed. Is the Invisible Children’s simplistic approach the right one? Maybe not. What I am pretty sure of however is that the world will be a better place without Joseph Kony.

Mobile Marketing is at a standstill

A shortened english version of my recent column on the Danish marketing site 

Mobile Marketing is at a standstill

As mobile phones become ever-more advanced, their potential for reaching out to consumers is growing rapidly, yet very few companies have exploited this potential. 

One of the most influential and widely used inventions of our time, the mobile phone has become an essential part of everyday life. Arguably, it has become part of our anatomy: 67% of Danes polled say that they wouldn’t leave home without their mobile phone (source: Google Mobile Planet), and there will be an estimated six billion mobile phones worldwide by 2012. This is equivalent to around 86% of the world’s population. Yet advertisers and agencies seem oblivious to the clear-cut opportunity this presents to both communicate more effectively with consumers and generate substantial revenues.

The mobile phone market has been revolutionised by smartphones, and – led by Apple’s iPhone – the smartphone market is booming, now accounting for 44% of the entire mobile phone market. In Europe alone, smartphones sales doubled in the past year (source: comScore). The numbers speak for themselves. The potential is huge, but where are the advertisers? Have they exploited the potential?

I went to the annual Mobile Marketing Forum (MMF) in London looking for some inspiration and the answers to these questions, but I was disappointed. Babs Rangaiah (Vice President of Media Innovation at Unilever), who spoke at the conference, summed up the problem: “The internet is still in kindergarten, mobile is in its infancy”.

Despite the presence of some of the world’s most influential advertisers, few of the cases shown featured the kind of creative and innovative solutions needed to tap into mobile media’s huge potential. Even companies like Unilever and Coca-Cola seem to be spending an almost imperceptible part of their large advertising budgets on mobile marketing. And these funds are often allocated to traditional ‘text to win’ campaigns or simple stand-alone solutions such as apps.

Coca-Cola generally applies a 70-20-10 model, where 70 % of marketing resources fund existing and previously proven solutions.  In the mobile marketing context this means that 70% of their budget is spent on SMS services, 20% is spent on mobile web, and only 10% on mobile apps.

Coca-Cola exemplifies the general approach to mobile media. Like most businesses, the company is content to transfer existing web, TV and print solutions to mobile platforms, rather than developing content to match the medium’s functionality. Essentially, they’re treating mobile platforms as an afterthought. This approach usually leads to low quality content, poor user experience, and misses opportunities for cross-platform integration. Quality mobile content adds value to consumers’ lives – everything else is irrelevant – and good user experience is crucial to delivering this content.

At Hello Group, we call this ‘de-junking advertising’, and – by putting the aim of adding value to consumers’ lives ahead of adding value to the advertiser’s brand and message –

it’s an approach that turns the traditional advertising process on its head.

A good example of this approach, and a highlight of the MMF conference, came from the American airline company JetBlue. Their mobile marketing fully exploits the medium’s potential, because it’s based on essential consumer insights.  A thorough analysis of passengers’ journeys – from ticket booking to final destination – allowed the company to identify crucial touch points where user experience could be improved by mobile solutions.  These include mobile check-in, text messages with targeted offers in the airport, QR codes with travel offers and music apps for the flight. TrueBlue, the customer loyalty program, is fully integrated via the Go Places Facebook app, so customers can earn extra frequent flyer points by ‘checking in’ to destinations and airports with their mobile phones.

Source: Google

Why are so few advertisers this consistent and thorough in their use of mobile marketing? As the only medium that users are in almost 24/7 contact with, and given its enormous potential for delivering targeted messaging, mobile marketing should clearly be integral to any marketing and media plan. The number of people using mobiles for primary access to the internet and social media channels is increasing, their interaction with games, videos, and other multimedia content via mobile is growing, and the range of advertising platforms and formats is multiplying. Facebook and Google, for example, have realised mobile’s potential, and are working continuously to keep up with its progress. Erick Tseng, Head of Mobile at Facebook asserts: “Within a year or two we’ll be a mobile company”.

With this much potential, why is mobile marketing still so widely viewed as an add-on to media strategy?

The most obvious answer is advertisers’ lack of awareness, and we – the media and advertising agencies who advise them – have to take responsibility for this. The advent of social media showed a weakness in our industry: often, we’ve been too slow to develop and integrate the skills necessary to deliver innovative solutions that can cut through the clutter.

As an industry, we need to give mobile marketing the attention it deserves, or risk missing out on its potential. Consumers have long since boarded the train – we need to join them, before we get left behind.

Read it in Danish:

“Liquid Content” #buzzword #marketing #advertising

Interesting post from  Harvard Business Review highlights some of the keys to winning in this new era of empowered, engaged and networked consumers. One expression or buzz word I found to be extremely relevant was the idea of “Liquid Content”

Besides the excellent figurative language (makes me think of blended foods which are often easier to digest) it perfectly describes the challenge when developing contemporary creative content :

“Liquid content is creative work that is so compelling, authentic and culturally relevant that it can flow through any medium. Liquid content includes emotionally compelling stories that quickly become pervasive. Similarly, “linked” content is content that is linked to our brand strategies and our business objectives. No matter where consumers encounter it, linked content supports our overall strategy. When content is both “Liquid and Linked,” it generates consumer expressions and has the potential to scale quickly. An example of “Liquid and Linked” was our FIFA 2010 World Cup program, which was the largest-ever Coca-Cola activation in history. More than 160 countries used a common World Cup Visual Identity System, a pool of television commercials, and a common a digital platform. All were linked by the common thread of celebration.”

Advertising will be evaluated the way the consumer evaluates a product #adfuture

In the mind of the consumer, advertising will be evaluated the way the consumer evaluates products.  It must add something to our lives and identity projects and it must be better than competitor products. In  the words of Douglas B. Holt:

 “Consumers will look for brands to contribute directly to their identity projects by providing original and relevant cultural materials with which to work. So brands will become another form of expressive culture, no different in principle from films or television programs or rock bands (which, in turn, are increasingly treated and perceived as brands). Brands that create worlds that strike consumers’ imaginations, that inspire and provoke and stimulate, that help them interpret the world that surrounds them, will earn kudos and profits.”


“Let the data sets change your mind set” #DataVisualization #TED

I don’t know if I’m a fan of McCandless, but that doesn’t change the power of data and information. When presented in an understandable and simple way it becomes even more relevant and powerful, not to mention when diagrams  reveal unseen patterns and connections

Why imitate and steal if you can create?

Someone once said “Talent imitates, genious steals”. Some times that might be relevant and true, but to me, the mind-set behind  that statement is exactly what is saturating the advertising industry, to an extent where it has become counter productive for our business and, to an even greater extent,  our clients.  To me authenticity and innovation continues to be two of the most essential drivers in advertising (and any business for that matter). If you are authentic and innovative, doing your own thing so to speak – you earn respect and credit. Everyone seems to realize and understand that – both clients and agencies. But instead of being authentic, clients and brands, and we as the consultants who guide them, continuously seek the easy way out. We look [read: steal and imitate] for authenticity from others who already have it, instead of creating and building our own. We tap into existing domains/projects/organisations that have already obtained authenticity, and hope their values, credibility and coolness will rub off on our brand. That can hardly be regarded as authentic nor innovative.  Our business is heralded  as being “creative”, yet to often, our creativity is limited to banal incremental innovation, imitation and sometimes stealing. I know that this debate has been ongoing, I know that there are thousands of arguments and reasons out there for why our industry has succumbed to this virtual state of creative stagnation. But that doesn’t make it less depressing… You don’t need to be talented or a genius to imitate and steal. You need to be talented (and sometimes a genius) to create and innovate.

Just needed to get that off my chest