Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Valeria Maltoni - the new Miss Manners?

We’re delighted to announce Valeria Maltoni as the moderator for our “Manners for the Modern Brand” panel at SXSW.

Valeria could well be the hardest worker in social media. For sure she’s one of the most prominent thought leaders, as the many readers of her blog Conversation Agent can attest.

Her approach is always thoughtful and considerate – we could not have wished for a more perfect catalyst to our conversation.

Thank you Valeria, and thanks to all who register and vote for our panel. The SXSW Interactive Panel Picker closes this Friday, August 29th.

Brand, behave!

This children’s book was published in 1946.

Tim Brunelle, one of our collaborators on our “Manners for the Modern Brand” panel at SXSW, brought it in as a piece of illuminating evidence.

Read this quote from the book with your brand and customers in mind:

The two biggest questions to ask ourselves in life, at any age, are: “Are most of the people I know glad that I am here” and “Am I glad that I am here, myself?”

What a great way for brands to think of themselves today.

More crucial is the title of the book itself, specifically the last word “…Why.”

Some of the comments we’ve had so far on the idea (and thank you all) have tended towards the feeling that manners are a nicety, that broad adoption would be utopia, either in the idyllic sense (hurrah, this is the way the world should be) or the unattainable (worthy but unenforceable, it’ll never happen).

If the ultimate answer to “Why?” isn’t “Because your brand will make more money” then we ought to give in. The premise is not that “it’s possible”, or “wouldn’t it be great”, but that every brand now lives in a small town, where everyone knows your name. Good behavior will be rewarded, poor behavior will get you ignored at the dance. There is no escape, no seclusion.

Here is a longer list of the questions we will be aiming to answer in Austin:

Are brands members of society?
What rules of society apply to brands? And what new ones need to be created?
Does a common set of rules negate brand differentiation?
What are the consequences for ignoring or breaking the rules?
And what are the rewards for brands that “behave”?

What would you like to know about “Manners for the Modern Brand”?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That hunted feeling

Image by fusiasa

Who else squirms when they hear the word ‘consumer’?

There’s something about it that conjures up an image of a human being as a tube, one that pays for the privilege of processing any goods and services we shovel into its entrance.

There are other terms we use on a regular basis that are just as revealing of the attitude we have towards our customers. Words like “target” and “roadblock”.

Then there’s “guerilla marketing”, as if our customers are now insurgents, to be fought in hand-to-brand combat. If Howard Gossage railed against outdoor advertising, what would he have to say about urinal cake ads, selling, selling, selling even when we thought we had a private moment to ourselves?

All of which brings me to Alan Wolk’s excellent jujitsu move, otherwise known as ‘Your Brand Is Not My Friend’.

Social networks were invented to bring friends together. But many brands have been quick to pursue us into what should be – was hoped to be – a safe haven, without even recognizing that a threshold has been crossed, or that the rules are different here.

Alan has put together an excellent panel for SXSW ‘09 to debate the challenges brands face in a social media world. I highly recommend you vote for his idea. It’s an important one.

To register, go here. To vote for “Your Brand Is Not My Friend”, go here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Manners for the Modern Brand™

There is only one rule that approaches advertising etiquette, and it goes something like “you appear uninvited in the living rooms of your customers – don’t be a boor.”

We all know how well observed that one is.

But brands are social now. They no longer sit behind a glass wall, talking loudly about themselves. They move through the world just like the rest of us. We gossip about them, spread warnings about the brands to avoid, we introduce brands to our friends, we choose the brands we are seen with. The rude or thoughtless or plain dull brand today can easily find itself with a very public shunning.

It stands to reason then that brands need to sign on to the same social contract we humans have all been living by for eons.

How helpful it would be to have a common set of guidelines for successfully navigating this complex world.

I’m calling it Manners For The Modern Brand, sort of an Emily Post-style primer for brands and the people who guide them. Here is the bare scraping of the surface. I’d love suggestions from readers.

Apologize – quickly, and graciously. Even if it wasn’t really your fault.
Avoid disturbing others with unnecessary noise.
Help those in need.
Behave in a manner suitable to the occasion.
Do not pry.
Do not interrupt.
Thank your customers for their loyalty.

It goes on and on.

In fact, in partnership with our friends at Hello Viking, we have put together a panel submission for SXSW 2009 on the subject. If you like the idea, please vote for us. We’ll put a permanent link up in the right column. Meanwhile, register to vote here, and vote here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's not a beautiful game, yet.

Image by txGeek

I’ve played football since I was seven. (That’s soccer to you North Americans.)

That first season is a dim memory of frantic, giddy confusion… twenty players, and sometimes more if the goalies abandoned their posts and joined the fray, huddled around the ball, scrambling from one random part of the field to the other in a storm of dust and kicked shins.

This scene came back to me as I was attending deepspace mobile, an excellent half-day dive into the state of mobile marketing, laid on by space150. (And more thankyous, btw, to Billy and Co for your vision and your enterprise.)

As all these fast plunges go, it was a dizzying day of ups and downs. At the end of it, I was left with the half-comforting, half-distressing notion that nobody really knows where anything is going, not even the experts by their own admission.

And in terms of making it all work together, those experts are arguably even more baffled than the outsiders, as they commonly use other digital elements of the marketing mix as their only points of reference.

Kind of like a scrum of would-be center-forwards not quite aware there's an entire field to spread out on.

Who can be sure if we’ll ever have an orchestrating mastery of all the tools ever again. Technology moves so fast, we may never catch up. In which case it will always be interesting. It will always be experimental. And the breakout successes will go to the brave.

One thing is for sure - you have to be in the game. Mobile is the next wave of information technology integrating into our daily, no – second-by-second, lives.

With that in mind, we at Persuasion Arts & Sciences are proud to direct you to our new, mobile version of Persuasionism. See that little graphic up top of the right column? You can also put this url into your mobile device:

Happy playing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You suck. Get used to it.

Image by auraelius

Listening to a report on NPR the other day about the presidential campaigns, I heard a comment that every single ‘gotcha’ moment from either candidate is immediately recorded, broadcast, and criticized. Every moment of McCain’s and Obama’s day is there for scrutiny and, each side hopes, derision.

The venues for this massive lab experiment are, of course, the same ones we are all working with on behalf of our clients. And the intense pressure the candidates are under is only an extreme version of what our brands go through today.

I’m hoping that the current state is a passing one – that we will become tired of being outraged about the imperfection of our heroes (or politicians, or brands) and that we start to ride with the untidy edges.

Not to say there’ll be a time where we should give poor behavior a free ride – just not so much self-righteousness when a politician is caught making an off-color aside, for example.

Politicians are human. Brands are human too. We could use the imperfections as proof of that.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bridge(s) for sale

Image remixed from Molas

We’ve all read Marty Neumeier’s “The Brand Gap”, or at least checked out his highly popular slideshare of the same name.

To recap the premise, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Brian Alvey:

Alvey: What is a "brand gap"?

Neumeier: The brand gap is the distance between business strategy (what the company wants to be) and customer experience (how people actually perceive it). The brand gap has its origins in the way our brains work. Strategic thinkers favor the left side of the brain (the logic), while creative thinkers favor the right side (the magic). Since these two ways of thinking reside in different people, there's always a gap between brand logic and brand magic.

There is another, related brand gap out there, and it exists not between business intention and customer experience, but within the brand development process itself.

On one bank is theory. It might be a simple advertising brief. Or, it might be the final report from a six-month, seven-figure market research study.

On the other side we have reality, namely the various people whose job it is to interpret that theory and turn it into design, advertising, product innovation, brand behavior etc etc.

And between the theory and reality, we have a yawning chasm. It represents time lost, arguments had, relationships frayed, focus diminished, and invariably disappointment from the theorists when they see their fine work (that they’d sold through to their bosses) come back unrecognizable.

The funny thing is the gap is invisible. You sure won’t see it called out in a development timeline. But again and again, there it is, suddenly bringing all momentum to a halt.

Why is this so?

I think it’s because we’re all optimists, for a start. We’d all like to believe that the translation of business fact into creative expression is smooth, even propulsive. (“I am engaged by your business challenge, and inspired solutions are already springing from my head” is the fantasy response.)

The other reason is that it’s very difficult to plan for the very real differences between the two types of minds that attack each side of the problem.

If I step back and look at what we’ve been doing at Persuasion, and before that at our previous company Cream, whether working on the client side as brand consultants, or collaborating with an agency on a new business pitch, it’s been re-interpreting fact into something more actionable for creative people. We’ve been building bridges and selling them.

The fact that it accounts for maybe ninety percent of our business suggests that the problem is more prevalent than anyone is aware of, and that it deserves to be planned for.

Have you ever had to re-write the strategy to fit the creative? Have you ever had to hire a second brand consultant to make sense of the first consultant's work? Have you ever found yourself staring at the climactic powerpoint slide, agreeing with every box, arrow and bullet point, but having no idea how all those squiggles will ever turn into an action?

You might want to find yourself some good bridge builders.

Friday, August 8, 2008

All the pretty titles

Image by LouisDavid

Here’s a bit of fluff for a summer’s day.

Crispin Porter Bogusky helped rewrite the way advertising is done by pouring creativity and intelligence into overlooked communications mediums. Yes, the need had been there forever - and “the shelf wobbler” had always been included as a symbol of the far side in the most ambitious creative briefs.

But it was all mostly lip service until traditional media finally buckled under its own oppressiveness. CPB was there to take advantage. They (and the award shows) glamorized non-traditional, making it the creative darling it is today.

Thank you Alex, Chuck, and crew. You are partly to blame for the glorious chaos we swim around in today.

Something else of note from Boulder, Florida is the new-new age job title. CPB's staff list reads like a time-capsule of advertising manufacturing, circa 2008.

Here’s a recent sampling from LinkedIn.

Director, Quality of Life
Senior Cognitive Anthropologist
Front End Architect
Interaction Manager
Interactive Conceptualist
Quality Assurance Analyst
Application Developer
Service Desk Technician
Content Manager
Director of Business and Cultural Insights
Budget Analyst
Visual Effects Supervisor
Senior Strategist
Information Systems Manager
Director of Partnership Development
Senior DFX Artist
Cognitive and Cultural Radar (intern)

What will the agency staff list look like five years from now?