Archive for the 'inspiring thoughts' Category

where do you want to go?

logic and imagination

A fine observation from Albert Einstein, courtesy of littlemiss

join the dots

content is not king

John shared this gem a while ago, and I couldn’t resist re-posting it here.

Cory‘s statement is truly insightful: content like music, films, novels, and news is valuable in and of itself, but its value increases exponentially when it enables us to connect with others.

Because it’s those connections that people really care about.

So don’t just think about how you can connect your brand to your audience.

Think about how your brand can help your audience connect with each other as well.

John has lots of other great stuff on his blog – go take a look

orchestrating success


Marketing is similar to conducting an orchestra: our role is to bring all the different pieces of a story together into one, harmonious experience.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but this superb TED talk from Itay Talgam helped to bring those thoughts together:

Itay’s points have relevance to many areas of business, but they seem particularly pertinent to today’s world of participative brand relationships.

Let’s explore his points in a bit more depth.

Be as one

Itay begins his talk by observing that, until the conductor arrives, the orchestra is just making noise.

Some of that noise may stand out above the rest, but ultimately, the noise lacks a coherent structure.

A conductor’s role is to establish that structure:

“The conductor enables eveyone’s story to be heard at the same time.”

It’s important to remember that brands only exist in people’s minds, and their perceptions differ depending on individual experiences and context.

Some people hear different parts of our brand’s music in different ways, and those differences lead to differing perceptions and preferences.

As marketers, we need to ensure that the important instruments stand out, but also that they all come together in one, harmonious melody.

Communications should work as an ensemble

When combined effectively, a full orchestra delivers a far richer experience than any one instrument can on its own.

The same principle applies to communications channels (i.e. media): we can use the power of a ‘solo’ where appropriate, but relying too heavily on just one instrument can limit your potential.

Our task is to take the beauty and power inherent in each instrument, and weave each of them together into a rich symphony.

Audience participation is a double-edged sword

The clip Itay shows of the Viennese audience clapping along to the music is a great example of audience participation.

Rather than ‘interfering’ with the performance, their contribution adds to the ‘story’ and elevates the experience.

However, such participation would have ruined a rendition of Mozart’s Moonlight Sonata:

Where it’s relevant, audience participation can play a valuable part in the experience, but it’s critical to remember that it’s not always relevant.

Our task is to identify when it makes sense to harness participation, and then influence and guide it to ensure that it doesn’t become an unwelcome distraction.

Inspiration vs. control

Itay tells the story of the conductor at La Scala, who was forced to resign because he was overly commanding.

As Itay notes, trying to control with an iron fist removes the possibility of partnership – a loss that would have serious consequences in a world where participation is becoming increasingly important.

If we try too hard to command the conversations surrounding our brands, we risk suffocating them.

Instead, we need to shift our focus from control to guidance – as Itay suggests,

“Open a space for players to add in another layer of interpretation — their own.”

We can guide the conversation along a particular path, but we need to allow that conversation the freedom to evolve of its own accord as well.

Immerse yourself

Quite early on in his talk, Itay notes that:

“success comes from happiness”

I’ve mentioned this before: if you want to be the best at what you do, you’ve got to love doing it.

Most importantly, you’ve got to get involved.

A means vs. the end

For me, the most salient point in Itay’s talk is when he contrasts interpretation with execution.

As marketers in a social world, our role is to inspire; not to control.

That will inevitably lead to some unexpected results; sometimes, people will interpret our efforts in a way that is markedly different to what we’d intended.

However, as long as the the results are still favourable, there’s little reason to worry: there are many different routes to success, and it’s arriving at the destination that counts.

All the right notes…

I’ll conclude with a point I’ve made a few times before: success in marketing depends on them, not you.

Sometimes, even if you play all the right notes, you can’t guarantee you’ll achieve success.

Take it away Eric, Ernie, and André…

Thanks very much to John for sowing the seeds of this post in my mind, and to Inaki for introducing me to Itay’s TED talk.

one of a kind


KINDED is a fantastic idea – one of those rare occasions where I want to go out and try a brand just because of its communications.

It’s organised by KIND, a “not-ONLY-for-profit” brand of hand-made, all-natural snacks from Australia.

I’ll refrain from calling this a campaign, because it’s not.

Rather, it’s a wonderful way to bring the brand philosophy to life, giving KIND relevance and making the brand a welcome part of your life.

The underlying concept of this ‘movement’ is ‘ random acts of kindness’, but it adds elements of the game ‘tag‘ and features from this fascinating initiative that tracks the movements of dollar bills in the U.S.

Here’s what the brand has to say about its ‘movement’:

Ever wish you could do an incredible kind act for someone else, but can’t do it alone? The KIND team wants to help make it happen.

KINDED is a movement inspiring unexpected kind acts. These kind acts can be anything from helping someone carry heavy bags, sharing your umbrella, or paying for a stranger’s coffee.

“KINDED cards” serve as licenses to do kind acts for people who might otherwise be wary, making KINDED easy to pass on.

And since each card has a unique code and can be mapped online, you can track how far your chain of KINDING travels and view kind acts happening around the world.

They go on to explain that the KINDED cards make it easier to overcome the social awkwardness that some people associate with helping a random stranger, by acting as an ice-breaker and explanation.


At the time of writing, 719 ‘KINDINGS’ have already been performed.

You don’t need to wait for someone to pass their card to you though – you can apply for one and start a chain of your own simply by popping over to the KINDED website.

So why do I think this is such a great activity?

Firstly, the concept is very simple: it focuses entirely on sharing the brand’s philosophy.

That may seem a narrow objective, but I now know exactly what the brand stands for – what makes it different, and why I should be interested. And that’s enough to make me want to try it.

Secondly, there’s no need for people to buy anything. It sees the world from the audience’s perspective, overcoming the “I know you’re trying to sell me something, so why should I even pay attention?” factor.

But most of all, this activity will bring joy and warmth to people’s lives – it will make people happy.

That’s powerful ‘CSR‘ that will inspire conversations, PR coverage, awareness, and goodwill.

All in all, a highly engaging communications proposition.


Thanks so much to Springwise for the pointer. Images ‘borrowed’ from the KINDED website. And no, as far as I’m aware, I have no connection of any kind to KIND – I just think this is a great way to build a brand.

diversity and creativity

diversity and creativity

Learning and creativity require a common characteristic: the ability to form new connections between things that already exist.

It follows, therefore, that diverse influence can inspire more strategic solutions, as well as more innovative creativity.

I regularly discover exciting ideas as a result of exploring things beyond the conventional boundaries of marketing.

Design blogs are great for quick lateral side-steps – from aggregators like ffffound! and notcot, to more specialised collections like i can read, oneplusinfinity, and it’s nice that.

However, I find that one field provides more stimulus for new ideas than any other: science.

I subscribe to a number of ‘mainstream’ science feeds, notably New Scientist and Wired (it’s not just a tech site!), that keep me up-to-date with important discoveries and quirky research.

However, a recent article in Ogilvy’s Fresh Influence blog drew my attention to a great new resource: Futurity.


Futurity is:

An online news source featuring the latest discoveries in science, engineering, the environment, health, and more…

It’s an amazing collection of research findings from America’s top universities that makes it easier for people to access work that others have already conducted.

In their own words,

In an increasingly complex world, the public needs access to clear, reliable research news. Futurity does the work of gathering that news. Think of it as a snapshot of where the world is today and where it’s headed tomorrow. Discover the future.

In the short time since I subscribed to their feed, I’ve learnt a wealth of new things on subjects as diverse as exoplanets, political cynicism, and how olive oil can be used to combat Alzheimer’s.

I may not find immediate, direct uses for all this new information, but each article sets off a thought process which inevitably helps me re-frame at least one marketing challenge.

Take a look for yourselves, or better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed*.

Where do you get your inspiration? What non-marketing sites do you find most useful? I’d love to hear your suggestions – please share them via the comments section below.

* You’ll need an RSS feed reader to make best use of this resource – check this post for more details on RSS feeds and readers. Thanks to John over at Ogilvy Fresh Influence for introducing me to Futurity. Image of Futurity website is a collage of screenshots.

learn something new every day

wise people never stop learning

There’s always something new to discover and explore.

The best education never ends.

Inspired by a comment on yesterday’s post

1000 stories

Niemann NY Mag US flags, Chinese workers

Most of us are familiar with the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But some pictures tell entire stories.

The illustration above, by Christoph Niemann, is certainly worth a few thousand words.

In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that it expresses more than words ever could.

And that’s the key to strategic communication – finding the most efficient and effective way to establish a common understanding.

The ideal means for a specific end.

See more of Christoph’s fantastic work here -  I especially liked this image from his children’s guide to learning Chinese characters. I discovered Christoph thanks to ffffound! – a great resource for regular inspiration. Please note that the copyright for the above image remains with its original owners – please let me know if you’d like me to remove this image and I will do so immediately.

thinking allowed

imagination vs knowledge

The stuff inside your head is only valuable once you let it out again.

With thanks to icanread and forgottenworks for the Einstein quote.

get sharp

sharpener or eraser

When it comes to sharing ideas, what role do you perform?

evolutionary thinking

learn from your mistakes

Making mistakes helps us understand better ways of doing things.

As long as you learn from the things that didn’t work out in the way you hoped, they’re not mistakes; they’re just steps on the journey to success.

Thanks to icanread for the inspiration


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