Yesterday, in a class at BU, I gave a lecture and led a discussion about “advertising” creative ideas. We explored “big” ideas: Let’s build a smarter planet; Giving wings to people and ideas; Day One. We dissected “campaign” ideas: A long day of childhood calls for America’s favorite pasta sauce. We thought about “advertising” ideas.
While some are clearly the creation of a traditional advertising creative team, the higher up the idea food chain you get, the more you can see the contribution of the strategist, or at the very least the strategic side of the creative team.
Ideas like “Day One” don’t happen without a pretty deep understanding of the user.
With the proliferation of screens, the mainstreaming of social media, the omni-presence of digital technology and the arrival of the Internet of Things, it becomes essential to know a lot more than how a consumer feels about a category, a company or its advertising.
How does she use technology? When does she access content? What role does her community play? How does context affect her willingness to engage? What kind of value and utility does she expect from a brand? What inspires her to share? Can you turn her into an advocate?
Today, the very best creative people have to be able to ask and answer those questions. And the very best strategists have to be able to get to ideas as good as Smarter Planet or Day One.
Years ago, when we worked in a linear fashion – client hands assignment to account guy who passes it to planner who writes brief for the creative team – we didn’t need to be T-shaped or know all that much about each other’s roles. Now, however, we have to be 20 or 30 percent something else. A writer/planner. A designer/coder. A strategist/creative.
Which leads me to the second part of this post — my excitement about Planning-ness having its 2013 conference in Boston next month. There is certainly no shortage of conferences, planning or otherwise. But as we all know, too many of them are designed to have you sit and listen as opposed to think and do. Planningness labels itself an “un-conference” for creative thinkers who want to get their hands dirty, offering a bit more how-to and interactive workshop sessions than the typical conference.
That makes Planningness a good thing for strategists who want to get more creative, or for creatives who want to get a bit more strategic. There may always be a distinction between creative and planning, but look at the very best of new, big, or digital ideas and that distinction gets more and more blurred.
The Planningness Grant
This years Planningness is offering a $10,000 grant for anyone the best research idea or project designed to benefit the planning community and creative thinkers.
How do social ideas spread? Are smaller communities of influence a new trend? Does real time come at the expense of enduring ideas? Do we learn by iterating or by testing?
Come up with a proposal and get it in. You have three days left. But this is a great opportunity to learn something that will make you, your agency and the community of planners better.
Anyway, hope to see you at Planningness. Let me know if you’ll be there.
I’ve been a fan of Springpad since they first launched. Enough so to join its board and also to fill in as interim CMO for six months in 2012. I can’t say I was a very good CMO – not a master of growth hacking, which is what startups really need in their marketing mix – but I did push for one feature. Embeddable notebooks.
Everything that Springpad is about – filtering the web, acting on your “springs,” saving, preserving and presenting content in a form that keeps it persistent rather than lost in the stream – is exemplified when notebooks become embeddable. Now you can post them anywhere, share them on platforms other than Springpad, allow your notebooks to travel across the web.
And if you’re a blogger, publisher, media company – and who isn’t these days – it gets even better. Springpad gives you a means of curating, organizing and sharing content in a more productive way than ever. Letting your readers access it, re-Spring it, copy an entire notebook, or more easily navigate to the original source.
If you are a user already, embeds are possible simply by hitting the share button inside a notebook, then grabbing the embed code. Just like a YouTube video. Give it try. Create, curate, publish, distribute.
It will be a great new feature. Love to hear what you think.
Eventually there will be some very impressive data visualizations of SxSW. How many people, how many sessions, how many beers consumed, how many hangovers. Until then you can check out Mashable’s SxSW by the numbers. Or poke around SxSWs’s press room.
But to be honest, I’m less interested in how much there is to pore through and more in the few things that might actually be useful, transferable, and worth remembering. Which is why I go every year. To find insights and perspectives that might serve a purpose the other 360 days.
Out of consideration for the fact that you are either:
A. Home but still waiting for the alcohol-induced haze to subside
B. Too busy doing actual work back at the office while your more fortunate colleagues are partying under the guise of working down in Austin
C. Still there in which case you’re overwhelmed already
….I share only five. Certainly you can remember five.
You are not a true entrepreneur unless you go all in. You don’t even have genuine conviction unless you go all in. This from Olan Musk, who in his interview with Chris Anderson, shared how he took every cent he had from his PayPal fortune, along with whatever else he collected from Tesla or other initiatives and put every last cent into SpaceX. To the degree that he had to borrow money to pay living expenses. If you had a couple of hundred million would you keep some back? Or go all in. Big balls.
Out of the Internet
This from Google’s Aman Govil during his Art, Copy & Code talk with Ben Malbon. It’s time we stopped making things for the Internet and started making things out of the Internet. This was one of the evident trends and ideas at SxSW this year, apparent in lots of new services and platforms. But it’s an important reminder. The ad industry is still thinking that ads on a mobile phone are the way to go. That would be making things for the Internet. Uber and others, on the other hand, are doing the opposite. Out of the Internet. Get on it.
Crisis in Chinese and Japanese
Al Gore says that the word for crisis in both Chinese and Japanese is composed of two characters. One means danger. The other means opportunity. Think about that. The language forces you to consider the positive with as much emphasis as we typically place on the negative. I’m not sure that English focuses us that way. Crisis tends first to elicit thoughts of danger, harm and concern. We may eventually see opportunity, but maybe we should see the opportunity immediately. For example, to use Uber again, urban cabbies can only see danger. That will lead to their inevitable failure.
Capture the Imagination
Clean tech — wind power, solar power, biomass, hydropower, biofuels — never quite reached its potential because it never captured our imagination, says David Merkoski, former ECD at Frog Design, now founder of Greenstart. The clean web on the other hand — AirBNB, ZipCar, other companies whose models are based on collaborative consumption — will and do. They may not have been created to clean the environment, but because they use fewer resources and waste less energy ultimately they will. More importantly they capture our imagination by inviting us to both create and participate. They get used, they spread, they get used even more. Fail to capture the imagination of users and sharers and little happens. Oh by the way, it’s the same reason that big business in America is despised more than Congress, according to Whole Foods CEO and founder John Mackey. That’s pretty obvious once it’s pointed out.
Behavior Should Impact Design
And you thought it was the other way around. Ha! In a rapid fire talk from Adaptive Path’s Chris Risdon, the behavioral designer, reminded us that every design decision we make, in any medium (digital or analog) influences our user. But too often we start with what we want to achieve and what we think will work or be logical. But given that we live in world that lets us collect endless data on an individual user’s behavior and have multiple ways to tell/create/frame a story or experience, we’ll be a lot better off if our design allows itself to be informed by the user we’re trying to motivate.
We invent hashtags, issue images in hopes of getting re-tweeted, ask tiresome questions of our Facebook fans and we think we’re being social.
We share clever semi-contextual ads on our Twitter stream and because we’re doing it in real time we think we’re being social.
We stick a QR code on an ad or a billboard or a retail display, assuming some poor soul will actually scan it, and we think we’re being social.
But if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that more often than not we’re simply using social media rather than exhibiting social behavior.
True there are plenty of examples of brands doing it right. But as more and more marketers incorporate social media into their efforts, there remains a tendency to fall back on old practices and ways of thinking. Control the message. Focus on reach. Strive to collect fans and followers that we’re not even sure what to do with after we’ve amassed enough to make us feel as if we’ve been successful.
But this week I was reminded what social behavior is really all about — inviting participation, creating community, generating content, and enhancing the experience that a user has with a brand in a way that yields a mutually rewarding experience. All evident in relatively small initiative from the Getty Museum.
As the only museum in the US to exhibit Vermeer’s Lady in Blue as the wonderful painting makes its way around the world, the museum found a perfectly relevant way to invite patrons to think about the painting, explore its meaning and play a part in a collective effort to imagine the opening line in the concealed letter that grips the attention of the woman reading it.
Hundreds of art lovers submitted lines, some serious, some eloquent, some amusing, some set in the 1600′s, some imagining the future.
In doing so, the Getty actually encouraged people to think about the painting, the moment captured, Vermeer’s intentions, the story that might be contained in its 270 square inches. It gave Vermeer fans a reason to pay to attention, participate and engage. And perhaps more importantly it didn’t ask for much in return. No likes. No follows. No pleas to purchase a ticket or visit the exhibit.
It’s more than likely that the masses, the general public, even the majority of the Getty’s 400,000-plus followers on Twitter don’t really care. Or would never take the time to play along. But for those that did, it was a way to feel involved with both the museum and the painting.
And, of course, to see which opening line Anne Martens, the Getty’s resident multi-media writer, chose to start the completed letter.
And finally, some lessons to consider as you think about your next social media initiative.
Know your users and invent something with which they will want to engage
Remember this is for them not for you. Too many social campaigns have already forgotten that you have to bring something useful and entertaining to the party. It starts with seeing things from a user’s perspective. What Vermeer lover wouldn’t want some encouragement and an idea for how to think about the painting?
Stop using social media as an ad medium
The Getty could have Instagrammed and Tweeted images of the painting. Or even made clever little ads and sent those out. But is that really being social? Social implies interaction, conversation and a relationship.
Integrate all of the platforms
The Getty let users join in via its blog, Twitter and Facebook. And the museum cross posted content, along with responses and conversation on all of them. Go where your users are; give them lots of ways to interact with you.
Make this kind of engagement part of your brand behavior
If you constantly generate small initiatives like this you’ll find more ways to connect with customers and your communities in ways that serve their interests and needs. And you’ll take the pressure off of trying to hit homeruns all the time.
Re think your metrics
Finally, stop evaluating initiatives like this based on likes, followers and clicks. Instead, measure interaction, engagement, depth of conversation, word of mouth, and even the press coverage that comes out of it. If you do you’ll see more value in trying to develop a never ending stream of small ideas that keep the dialog going and give your users a reason to keep coming back.