Thought I’d share this fun sonnet that my wife Barbara just wrote in response to the “shortage” of feathers for fly fishermen. As you may know from pieces in the NY Times, the Huffington Post, or simply from a visit to your salon, it’s the latest hair fashion trend.
Something a little different here for summer and vacation. Hope you like it.
Sonnet: Waders Wage War
by Barbara Boches
Fly fishermen are reeling now that anglers
must angle for feathers being sold
up the river to salons. Hackles raised
on roosters, meant for biting waters,
will float in streams of streaked, New York ‘dos.
The balding heads in hip boots must battle
blonds in Blahniks, while feather prices rise
as fast as creeks in spring and supplies settle
like stones. As salons and fly stores cry, More!
the rooster farmers cast their votes to breed
(or not) more males with long feathers. But who
can tell if fashion mavens will continue to lure
women to buy feathers or if the fad will fade
faster than a fashionista says cock-a-doodle-do?
photo “borrowed” from NY Times. Image by Craig Dilger. Hope he doesn’t mind.
At Mullen, we’ve learned that one of the simplest ways to get your company to behave more socially, to think about creating on all of the new platforms and to generate experimental ideas for clients, who are always interested in what they should do or try or play with in the increasingly cluttered sandbox of apps and gadgets and APIs, is to simply play with everything yourself.
Take whatever interests you and share it with your peers and colleagues. At Mullen, we’ve done that with Twitter and WordPress and Posterous and Quora (fail) and most recently Instagram, the photo sharing social platform that everyone seems to love. People may still forget to use our hashtag, #mullenunbound, but we’re making progress. Ideally our photo collection will become a great visual story about the agency, its people, and what it feels like to work here. Perhaps it will even become a lure for both new employees and clients.
As far as the latter goes, we haven’t done anything really incredible with Instagram yet other than introduce our partners to the platform, suggest ways they can invite customer participation, and simply share content themselves. But we’re working on it, getting lots of people excited about finding ways to share visual content.
My friends at Instagrid were kind enough to fulfill a personal request and add a #hashtag feature, so that now instead of simply capturing your own Instagram photos on their cool little site, you can search virtually any hashtag. Certainly that’s a reason to create one for yourself, a subject you care about, or a marketing event.
Give it a try. Instagrid.me is awesome. And you can make it even more awesome by what you do with it.
Got some cool things you’ve been doing with Instagram? Please share. Oh, and if you need someone cool to help you develop something using the platform, contact Instagrid and ask for George.
I had the privilege of spending this afternoon at IDEO’s Cambridge office, just up the street from MIT. A few of my Mullen colleagues and I got the full IDEO treatment – an overview of their beliefs, a tour of the offices (team rooms, 3-D printers, proto-type lab) and attendance at afternoon tea, where a new designer shared his silk screen portfolio and a few amusing stories behind his posters while we all indulged in strawberry shortcakes.
We’re living in a time when the diminishing impact of traditional advertising and the consumer/citizen’s ability to control and influence media and content requires all of us to get better at creating utility, experiences and baked-in brand qualities, not to mention social value, if we’re to serve and guide clients in their behavior, actions and branding efforts.
IDEO should be one of our benchmarks. Ironically, they’re as interested in the tools and tactics needed to generate awareness for their creations and inventions as we are for the methods behind their accomplishments. So we have something in common.
Clark Scheffy, a lead designer, shared some of his and IDEO’s key beliefs. Worth noting that in IDEO’s capabilities presentation there are few facts, no boring stats, and no “selling,” just a philosophy that is hard to argue with.
Design can have a huge impact on the world around us
The idea that design can create new products, change behavior, solve problems, and build solutions is key to IDEO’s belief system and to their entire approach to problem solving. It’s not about research; it’s about creativity and inventing stuff – products, methods, experiences – that effect real change. From programs like Keep the Change, to vaccines that don’t require needles or medical professionals to administer them.
Magic happens through diversity of experience and perspective
You can sense this just from meeting the people at IDEO. Designers, UX professionals, former consultants eager to be more creative, former ad agency types, printers, musicians, strategists, chefs. You notice diversity in accents, skin color, age, gender. IDEO’s approach to collaboration and team problem solving (asking for help is more important than having an idea) is part of the culture.
Inspiration can be found in many places and in many ways, but you have to get out there.
In advertising we depend too much on query and focus groups. IDEO gets out there. They check into hospitals and strap cameras to their foreheads to improve health care. They live in a van with three other people on the edge of the beach to better connect with surfers when designing board shorts. Their designers balance checkbooks with ordinary people when working on banking products. It’s less about size of sample and more about proximity to those whom a product or brand strives to serve.
You get to great by experimenting
Their mantra, “Think to build. Build to think,” says it all. They’re famous for their prototyping, but the idea of finding the answers in the building, embracing an iterative rather than linear process, brings to mind Lean Startup-type thinking rather than the typical ad agency assembly line approach.
Knowledge across categories and industries yields better ideas
How many times have you had a client ask for experience in their category? Do you have car experience? Packaged goods? We may know that it matters more to them than to the ability to generate ideas that work. But IDEO takes the offensive and markets aggressively the value of that range of experience. Perhaps we should package that feature a little bit more effectively.
Success comes from vision and action
Plenty of firms do research, discover insights, hand over some data and move on. IDEO refuses to take on projects that don’t have an actionable outcome. It makes me think that agencies should take (or consider) the inverse approach, requesting more of a role in the invention and creation of what it is that gets advertised or communicated in the first place.
We’re most successful when we work with not for a client
No doubt many of us are working this way. But within the advertising industry there remains a bit of the “creative magic” that only a few people are able to conceive. When that’s the case we work in silos and in isolation from our clients. The “creative team” goes away and does their thing off in a corner. Great when you’re making a TV spot, but if you’re creating a digital experience, or developing an eco-system or inventing a new service, it’s definitely better to work jointly with our partners.
My favorite quote from Clark came in side conversation during a tour of the office. “There’s no such thing as a boring brand or assignment. Just un-exciting people. We strive to work with exciting people.”
That may be the best take-away of all.
Image snagged from Ideo’s site.
I was informed last week by my good friend Tim Malbon – creator, blogger, Twitterer, Instagrammer, BDW instructor – that we had to complete an online conversation quickly as he was going offline for two straight weeks during a holiday in France.
Well it turns out that was a slight exaggeration. He’ll actually need Wifi (rather than the prohibitively expensive data roaming) and Google Maps to locate campgrounds in France. Nevertheless he does plan on spending significantly less time online over the next two weeks.
Upon hearing of his imminent disappearance I immediately became concerned for Tim’s digital friends and followers and for Tim himself, whose diminished online presence could leave him temporarily forgotten by the thousands of people who have grown to be dependent on the content the emanates from the man we affectionately know as Malbonster.
Wanting to help in anyway possible, I offered Tim this interview in hopes of keeping his digital presence alive and well.
C/U: Is it true Tim that you’re really leaving us for a couple of weeks? I hear you’re going camping.
Tim: Yes. Hiring a brand new VW California. (Incidentally it’s the first van where they’ve actually built the caravan bit and it’s not been converted by another company.) The only fixed bits are sailing Tuesday from Dover to Dunkirk, and coming back the same way a couple of weeks later. Where we go is utterly unplanned – we’ll follow the sun, which probably means heading south as a fast as possible, with the ultimate objective of spending five or six days either around Cassis near Marseille, or the beaches near Bordeaux. We’ll be exploring and stopping several nights on the way and way back.
C/U: Hmmm. Well then you’ll obviously be Instagramming and Tweeting far less frequently than you typically do.
Tim: I’ll be spending my time relaxing with my wife and kid. All the time that I would be at work for a start, but I suspect I’ll be going to bed earlier, too. I will probably pop onto Twitter but won’t be spending a lot of time at all with it. But I haven’t been doing much with it recently anyway. I’m spending that time on IG.
C/U: That does seem to be a trend, people forsaking Twitter for Instagram. On that note will you be saving up photos, adding artful effects and anxiously awaiting the day you can post again?
Tim: Some. But I prefer to do it in batches when I can find Wifi. As you may have noticed, I don’t spend a lot of time playing with or processing images. I prefer to do it in the moment without thinking, which I’ll probably miss a bit. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t spend time “catching up.”
C/U: What are the chances you’ll sneak online when the kid’s asleep or your wife’s not paying attention?
Tim: Low. I am looking forward to playing lots of cards and backgammon with Caroline, and going to bed early.
C/U: Will you feel guilty neglecting your many followers on Twitter and Instagram?
Tim: No way. I don’t really feel like that.
C/U: So you obviously see some value in taking a break from the digital clutter that permeates our lives.
Tim: Totally. I look forward to taking a break. I find it a bit too much from time to time. I know I won’t relax unless I don’t look at email, for example. The moment I do, I shall be sucked into thinking about work and I need to not think about that for a couple of weeks. I’d like not to be distant and preoccupied on this holiday.
C/U: Might you actually read a book?
Tim: I will be reading some books (most looking forward to A History Of The World in 100 Objects), spending a lot of time just exploring, playing with Felix, cooking (van, self-catering plus amazing French produce, duck, cheeses, meats) and I will also try to do one very quick water colour painting each day. I won’t be sharing these.
C/U: I’m sorry to hear that. I thought we share everything in the age of social media. Well all that offline time might actually help you re-program your brain for deeper, more critical thinking.
Tim: I’m not sure I’ll manage any deep critical thinking. I suspect a holiday with a two-and-half-year-old may not be conducive to that. I’m hoping we’ll all get into siestas and napping.
C/U: Well good luck, Tim. Hopefully this post will keep you at least a little visible.
Tim: Thanks. I am so looking forward to getting on the road, putting the world in a love embrace, firing all my guns at once and exploding into space…
C/U: Shit, I’m old enough to have bought that original album and seen the movie the week it came out. If I remember correctly it was before we had the Internet.
When you write a blog, you get sent a fair number of books to read and review. Some you get around to, some you don’t. This month, as part of marketing blitz from Simon Mainwaring and company, I received a copy of We First along with a number of emails asking me to post and link to the book on Amazon, which I dutifully do right here.
Yet while We First is perfectly packaged – a dissertation on the still popular topic we call social media; a well-done website including sound bites on what blogger reviewers should say; numerous shout outs to brands such as Toms, Nike, Zappos and others who might buy the book in bulk; and more than a few proclamations that the author is the owner of the idea behind We First, a sure way to line up paid speaking gigs and more sales – the book is well worth reading, whether you’re a company trying to navigate the “End of Us And Them” or an agency or marketer striving to guide clients.
In short, Simon makes three strong arguments. The first is that in an age of consumer control and the ability to support or take down a brand for its misbehavior or bad judgment, all companies should learn to leverage that same social behavior by inspiring positive word of mouth through actions that do good.
Second, the author lays out convincing evidence that consumers are motivated by more than low price. Brands that have integrity, that commit to sustainable practices, whether economic, environmental or social, enjoy higher sales, greater loyalty and more endorsement.
And finally, Mainwaring reminds us that our biggest problems – global warming, hunger, economic disparities, and potable water — are too significant for governments and NGOs to solve. It’s time for business to embrace a new set of values and focus on making contributions of value to society and community.
Simon is clearly not talking about making charitable donations or using superficial social acts as a ploy to generate PR and temporary good will. In fact he condemns the “hypocrisy of many businesses to save with one hand what the other hand has destroyed.” The truly sustainable company wouldn’t need to write checks because its daily operations would enrich rather than deprive the community.
We would all be better off if business heeds some of We First’s recommendations and examples. And there are plenty of the latter for inspiration, as Mainwaring gives kudos to the usual suspects – Whole Foods, Starbucks – along with giants trying to do good (Pepsi) and smaller firms who have social responsibility built into their DNA (Dancing Deer Bakery.)
And to his credit, he shares practical suggestions for how companies can get with the program, including ways to leverage employees; the benefits of collaborating with government, supply chains and even competitors; using consumers as partners; and something he calls contributory consumption.
Side note re contributory consumption: When I taught last year the University of Oregon, my assignment to the school of journalism and communication was to develop a program to jump start innovation in America. One team came up with the idea of a digital currency that would reward consumers for contributing time or money to worthy causes. Brands could purchase or earn the currency through certain behaviors, then grant the digital value to consumers who supported bought their products and services. The team is working on bringing this to life as we speak.
The cynics among us wonder if the inherent greed and profit-motives of most business might cloud a more modern perspective that reveals the benefits of embracing this new social responsibility. More practical thinkers simply hope that consumers take advantage of their recently acquired power and force change. And finally the optimists might actually believe that companies and businesses can change on their own. Let’s hope so. If Simon’s own transformation is any indication, at least it’s possible.
Simon Mainwaring can be credited with a few things. A lesson in how to market a book. Positioning and packaging himself as a writer/speaker. But more importantly for actually writing something that will push an important conversation forward. If you’re tired of what social media is and interested in what social media might actually let us achieve, pick up a copy of We First. And think about what you and your business can change to answer the question that appears on page 1.