The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Strategy Is A Direction, Not A Shopping List …

I am getting fed up of hearing strategy talked about in terms of a process.

Of course, there is one, but it seems people seem to value the process more than what it is supposed to deliver.

Which is clarity and direction.

Something that will change the behaviour of the brand/business from the very next day.

Something that will help create a clear position in culture, not just in the category.

Something that will contribute value, loyalty and appeal to the audience that will move them forward.

Something that is focused on the long-term, not just the next quarter.

That’s it.

That’s all strategy is.

And yet, I am meeting so many people who are getting lost in the process or worse, getting lost in the word ‘strategy’ … saying nothing can be done without it being deeply involved at every step – and I mean ‘every’ step – of the process.

Now don’t get me wrong, thinking and expertise is important – but to imply that only someone with the word ‘strategy’ in their title can do it, is wrong.

Actually, it’s insulting … especially when you consider that so much of the magic happens when you invite people who see the World differently to the party.

But it’s happening.

I’m seeing it everywhere.

And what it’s doing is creating so many strands to the strategy discipline, they’re getting in the way of each other.

That might be good for the agency fee, but not great for the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these strands of strategy don’t have value – of course they do – but in many areas, it’s not actually strategy … it’s not delivering on any of the 4 areas listed above … it’s simply helping push along the process of the output to get to a [allegedly] more effective result.

In other words, it’s short-term tuning rather than long term creating.

Adding obstacles rather than taking them away.

Or said more cynically, it’s more tactics than strategy.

Doesn’t have to be.

Not everyone is doing that.

Not everyone thinks like that.

But my god, it seems there is a lot of it about … and when you look at the amount of work that is being produced because of it, you have to admit that while there’s a lot of optimization, there’s not a lot of distinctive, magnetic energy.



Mario Has An Accident …

So I love video games.

Absolutely love them.

I’ve had pretty much every console since the bloody Philips G7000.

And trust me, if you can look at that console favorably, you must really love gaming because it was pretty shocking.

But of all the games I’ve played on all the consoles I’ve owned, one has been a particular fave.

Mario Kart.

God I love that game.

So simple yet so addictive and always so much fun.

So while I have that game on countless Nintendo consoles, when I heard it was coming out on the iPhone, I quickly downloaded it.

Only to get this …

WHAT. THE. FUCK. MARIO?!

Nintendo have always been the bastions of seamless entertainment.

Turn on and play … but they launch a game on the bloody iPhone, a device that could – in theory – open up a huge commercial opportunity for them and it doesn’t work.

Worse, they openly tell you it won’t work for a few days … which begs the question, why launch it?

Maybe it’s not Nintendo’s fault as it has been widely reported Apple launched iOS 13 too early and it’s littered with bugs [another sign that Mr Jobs is long gone] but whatever the reason, as a Nintendo and Mario fan, this has pissed me off … almost as much as it will piss R/GA off when my timesheet is filled with the job code MARIOKRT.

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I appreciate this is not exactly the best post for Remembrance Day, or maybe it’s the perfect reminder why we should all get along with our neighbours so we avoid ending up causing a wealth of pain and hurt no one deserves or recovers from.



Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.

Continuously.

It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth it.



Bullshit Brand Bingo …

Years ago, there was an email that went around that invited people to play ‘Bullshit Bingo’, the marketing edition.

Included on the paper were words such as ‘synergy’ and ‘optimization’ and the aim of the game was to take this to your next meeting and cross off each word as someone said them.

The person who crossed off all the words first, won.

It was a tongue-in-cheek way to take the piss out of the marketing industry and it’s obsession with using words that are the absolute opposite of the words the audiences we try to have a meaningful connection with, say.

Well it appears there is a new version of this game in town … except some people haven’t realized it’s a game.

Worse, it appears they think it is a brand building bible.

Have a look at this …

I don’t know about you, but nothing says ‘brand transformation’ like bigging-up the fact you have decorated your reception area.

Don’t get me wrong, a brand should infect and influence every aspect of how you behave and express yourself but – and it’s a big but – it should be something that is truly distinctive to your brand, not just a bunch of brand mumbo-jumbo words and corporate colours that end up making you look and sound exactly like everyone else.

I wrote about this a while back when I said the best brief I ever received was from Richard Branson for his now infamous Virgin Atlantic London lounge.

I also talked this with Martin at Cannes.

The reality is too many companies aspire for best practice.

But the reality is best practice means averageness.

Fitting in not standing out.

Differentiation without distinction.

Staying in the middle rather than reaching for the edges.

I am amazed how many companies fear being different and yet claim to be.

I am even more amazed how many companies then shit themselves when someone comes along with a point of view that is genuine and authentically expressed and executed so that it attracts culture rather than tries to chase it.

Apart from being a law firm, I don’t know who Pinsent Masons are, but if they aspire for their new reception to reflect their bland brand value with words like ‘bold, connected and approachable’, I think I’ll survive living in my ignorance.



What Do You Call Someone Who Loves Lots Of Brands …
June 10, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Brand, Culture, Loyalty

I’m back and I survived.

Not sure if Portland did, but I am fine and that’s all that matters.

And yes, I can be a little prince because it’s my birthday in 2 days time so I can act anyway I choose.

Ahem.

But before I write a sycophantic birthday post, let’s get to writing some rubbish loosely-based planning post instead.

The holy grail for brands is to have someone only buy their brand.

Doesn’t matter about price.

Doesn’t matter about features.

Doesn’t matter about availability.

A loyal person is a blindly blinkered person.

Of course it’s all bollocks because people buy a bunch of brands … and while they may have their preferred choice – emotionally or commercially – they rarely limit themselves to just one name.

It does happen … such as Yorkshire Tea for example, or – errrrm – Birkenstocks … but it’s not as often as many marketers like to think.

So does this mean brand advertising is a waste of money?

Of course not.

Apart from the fact we are seeing more and more people make their choices on what a brand believes, the fact is there’s a shitload of choice out there and you better be one of the ones people are thinking about or associate strongly with in specific categories or you’re dead before you’re started.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with the point of this post because what I want to write about is this lady that I saw on the tube a couple of weeks ago.

Look at that drink in her hand …

Starbucks cup.

In a Prêt sleeve.

That contains a tea bag from god knows where.

I have to be honest, I would love to know which of those 3 came first.

Is she a recycler?

Is she a hoarder?

Is she just weird?

Whatever the answer, while many may say she is brand disloyal … she might just actually be one of the most brand loyal people on the planet.