Posts Tagged 'context'

social media – global vs. local: can one size fit all?

This was my presentation yesterday at the Social Media World Forum in Singapore.

Despite research that ‘proves’ “local pages perform much better than global ones”, the reality is that the performance of any social media presence depends entirely on what you are trying to achieve.

There’s also the critical issue of whether you can afford to set up presences in each of your brand’s locations.

My advice is always to do what’s best for your audience, in the context of your brand and its objectives.

Doing so requires a solid understanding of what that audience uses social media for, what they hope to gain from a relationship with your brand, and how they’d like to get it.

That requires some careful strategic planning.

This presentation asks many of the important questions that will help you start that strategy, and offers some examples of different approaches to implementing it too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.


facebook place polls

I spotted this interesting little section on Facebook today:

They’re both Places that I’ve previously checked into, so it’s likely I’d have an opinion on the question.

I’m interested to see what Facebook are going to do with this – will they start to publish rankings of the most popular places by city?

Or will they perhaps start to recommend places based on my network’s favourite places?

Whatever the plan, it looks like it has plenty of social potential.

like for like

As many of you will already know, Facebook recently moved from “Becoming a Fan” of a brand to simply “Liking” it.

The change is now live on the site, and I’m already noticing some brands taking advantage of the shift.

One example that stood out is this sneaky little advert from Heineken:

I like the creative aspect – what’s not to like about a brand cheering me up on a Monday?

But here’s where the clever bit comes in.

The button at the bottom of the ad – the option to “Like” – appears to be set up like the normal “Like” button that appears below friends’ status updates and photos.

However, click on this particular “Like” button, and you’ll become a ‘fan’ of Heineken.

That means the brand’s status updates and other activity will show up in your News Feed until you choose to ‘unfan’ them.

From a certain perspective, this seems quite a clever use of the feature, but from another point of view, it seems dangerously close to spam.

What do you think?

The image at the top borrows shamelessly from this rather intriguing Facebook page. If it’s yours and you’d prefer me not to use it, please just drop me a note and I’ll take it down.

chinese whispers

Many of the things I learned as an interpreter are equally useful in advertising.

One such lesson is the importance of ‘back translation’ – a validation test where someone else translates your translation back into the original language.

This re-translation is the true measure of success, because it shows how well the intended message has survived communication.

Here’s an example:

Original English:

Some Japanese women believe that fairness
is more important than intelligence.

Italian translation:

Alcune donne giapponesi credono che la pelle chiara
sia più importante dell’intelligenza.

The ‘back translation’ – converting that Italian translation back into English:

Some Japanese women believe that pale skin
is more important than intelligence.

However, in the original, “fairness” refers to being evenhanded, not to skin pigmentation.

Looking back at that original, it’s easy to see how this misunderstanding occurred.

But if you only saw the Italian translation, you wouldn’t have the benefit of that context.

You’d only see this contentious statement, which could easily cause offense.

And therein lies the lesson: when it comes to communication, subtle nuances can have a significant impact.

Brand interpreters

Advertisers must navigate such nuances every day, because audiences only see translations.

They never see the beautifully crafted PowerPoint slides.

They never hear the eloquent strategic rationale.

They only ever see the ads.

And if they can’t translate the messages in those ads back to what we intended to share, we’ve failed.

So how do we mitigate the dangers of nuance?

From lesson to learning

During a particularly tough back-translation test, a colleague shared some invaluable advice:

It’s amazing how such a simple change can make a world of difference.

rethinking success

Happy New Year!

Did you start 2010 with a fresh set of objectives?

Grow profits; drive revenues; increase the margin.

Do you have any objectives that aren’t about making more money than you made in 2009?

Defining success

When it comes to measuring success, we often make comparisons to the past.

Companies look at how profits changed relative to previous periods.

Individuals might compare their earnings to previous roles.

Even charities look at the changes in donations received.

By most definitions, we haven’t succeeded unless we’ve grown, and in business, this invariably relates to financial growth.

Indeed, financial growth is often a business’s primary objective, to the extent that any gains are reinvested to generate yet more growth in the next period.

But why are we so obsessed with growth?

Growth vs. greed

In nature, the drive to grow is instinctive: we need to reach a certain size to survive and procreate.

However, unrestrained growth brings dangerous consequences: excess leads to obesity, slowing us down and compromising our health.

In the good times, this doesn’t matter too much, because there’s enough to go round.

But, eventually, excess becomes unsustainable: over-consumption results in scarcity of resources and intense competition.

When this happens, the obese are most at risk: their size makes it harder for them to secure food and escape predators.

They face a stark choice: redress the balance, or die.

Survival of the fittest

This pattern is obvious in nature, but we often miss the parallel in business.

However, just like animals, brands can’t continue to grow indefinitely: eventually, they either reach a healthy equilibrium, or they exhaust all the available resources and die.

Faced with that choice, the decision seems simple.

Sometimes, though, scarcity occurs quite suddenly.

Just a few years ago, newspapers were enjoying those ‘good times’.

Then, out of nowhere, a fitter species appeared and gobbled up all their resources.

Sadly, the newspapers were too obese – too complacent, too cumbersome, too bloated – to react in time.

Now they’re starving, on the brink of extinction.

Their demise holds a lesson for us all.

Fit for purpose

The trick to avoiding newspapers’ fate is stay fit and healthy.

One way to do this is to avoid excessive growth.

So, if your objectives for year ahead are based purely on growth, challenge them.

What’s all that growth for?

And what will you do when you achieve it?

All too often, the euphoria of achieving a growth goal quickly gives way to a desire to outdo yourself again.

It becomes a never-ending cycle; increasing the number becomes the only thing that matters.

But there’s got to be more to life than numbers.

We need to remember the real benefits that growth was supposed to bring.

What would success look like if you couldn’t grow anymore?

Better, not bigger

Most New Year’s resolutions relate to health and fitness.

Perhaps it’s time we set similar business resolutions too.

I’d like to start the year with a challenge:

Why not set one objective for 2010 that has nothing to do with financial growth?

How about play rises instead of pay rises? More time to do the things that feed your souls, not just your bank balances (think Google’s 20%).

Perhaps you could initiate pro bono work for issues you really care about? Rather than waiting for someone to ask you, just get on and do it.

Or, why not take on an intern and actually help them to learn useful skills? With a bit of guidance, enthusiastic graduates can do much more than just make coffee and photocopies, and you’ll feel rewarded too.

Whatever you decide, one thing will make achieving your goal easier:

Stop measuring your success by comparing yourself to others.

Innovate, don’t imitate.

It’s much easier to succeed when you write your own rules.

Good luck, and best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2010!

good vs evil

Most people believe that good will triumph over evil.

This optimism is a core tenet of humanity.

Indeed, it’s so ingrained that we often assume that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ will be easy to tell apart – like night and day.

Sometimes this is the case; some crimes can never be justified, while some acts are universally welcomed.

However, much of our world view dictates ‘good’ from ‘evil’ on a purely subjective basis.

For example, religion will likely always remain a matter of individual opinion.

The same is true of culture.

There’s little doubt that globalisation has led to a degree of homogenisation of attitudes and behaviour, and we’ve lost much cultural variety along the way.

But this is nothing new; the Greeks and the Romans are perfect evidence that even the strongest and most influential ‘civilisations’ rise and fall.

This is because culture and ideas are subject to the same principles of evolution as biological species: only the fittest survive.

And as with biology, the key to continued survival is genetic diversity.

This means we must draw from as many influences as possible, but at the same time, ensure that we do not distill everything into a single, homogeneous result.

I was reminded of this while watching a fantastic TED talk from Dan Dennett (below).

He approaches the topic of cultural propagation from a philosophical angle, but there’s a clear relevance to advertising and planning in there too.

For me, the abiding lesson is that our individual cutural and moral perspectives are never ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

They’re simply subjective perspectives.

advertising and sales

advertising and sales

Last week’s measures of success piece inspired some lively discussion.

Amongst all the great points, one topic deserves a more thorough examination:

“Advertising’s job is to drive sales.”

Many marketers take this for granted.

However, there’s a slight problem.

Driving sales is not advertising’s job.

Driving sales is marketing’s job.

Advertising plays a part in this, but brand communications are only one aspect of the marketing mix, and that whole mix must work together if the brand is to achieve its objectives.

If we are to maximise advertising’s impact, we must understand what it can and cannot do.

Breaking it down

Advertising can’t do everything on its own:

It can’t make a bad product good;

It can’t drive sales if the brand isn’t available;

It won’t make an expensive brand more affordable.

However, it can help in each of the above situations:

It can focus people’s attention on the more attractive aspects of the product, or ‘re-frame’ the bad points;

It can drive desire that may translate into sales if and when the brand becomes available;

It can reposition an expensive brand’s value equation so that a high price seems more reasonable.

A team effort

It might help to think of the marketing mix in terms of a sports team, where the different elements of the mix (the 4Ps) perform the roles of different players or positions.

Winning is everyone’s objective, and everyone plays a part in achieving that.

However, no single player is solely responsible for winning; even if one player scores all the points, the other players will contribute to this, either by helping that player, or by impeding the opposition.

Soccer teams only win if they score more goals than the opposition, but coaches don’t evaluate goalkeepers based on how many goals they score, because the goalkeeper’s specific role is to ensure that the opposition scores fewer goals.

Advertising’s role

Marketing aims to change people’s behaviour in some way, even if it’s just encouraging what they do already.

Whilst there’s no doubt that advertising must contribute to this overall objective, it’s unrealistic to expect that advertising can achieve everything on its own.

It’s worth noting that advertising doesn’t just contribute to sales-related objectives: it can also be used for propaganda, or to promote the greater good.

So, rather than focusing on sales, I’d argue that a more relevant definition of advertising’s role is:

To help organisations achieve their overall objectives, by influencing the beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions that guide people’s actions.

I recognise that this presupposes the legitimacy of the reasoned response model that we explored a few days ago; however, I believe it’s safe to assume that people apply some form of cognitive processing to advertising messages before deciding how to act on them.


Within that broader aim, advertising’s specific role is to influence what people think, such that they will then modify their behaviour in the way we intend.

This final qualification is very important: all advertising must contribute to overall ‘team’ success; there’s no point in advertising just for the sake of it.

In light of this, when developing advertising, it’s best to start with the change in behaviour you want to effect, and work logically from there.

The following questions will help you to achieve that:

What do we want people to do?

What are they doing now?

Why are they behaving that way?

What do they think or feel that stops them behaving in the way we want them to?

What change in their attitudes, beliefs or feelings would encourage them to behave in the way we want?

What can we do or say that will help to influence these attitudes, beliefs and feelings in this way?

When and where are these things most relevant to the people we want to influence?

And when it comes to measurement, we need to understand:

Whether people witnessed any of our communications;

What they understood about what they saw;

Whether that understanding had any impact on their behaviour.

You can find a more detailed explanation of how to approach these steps in the ‘8 steps to strategic communications’ and ‘measures of success’ posts.

The next frontier

We spend a lot of time improving our performance in each element of the marketing mix – advertising, distribution,  pricing, etc.

However, borrowing from the analogy above, a team’s strength lies in its interrelationships: the best mix delivers far more than the mere sum of its parts.

If we are to radically improving our marketing, it’s those interrelationships that we need to improve.

You can find some initial ideas on that here.

But there’s much more to come…

UPDATE: if you’d like to know the consensus of opinion on whether we should look at sales when measuring ad effectiveness, take a look here.

context is king

This short clip is great for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s quite funny, and sharing laughter is always good.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it shows how saying something in a different context can totally change its meaning.

The critical part of all communication is what’s understood, not what’s said.

A valuable lesson for advertisers everywhere…

Reminds me of the great Lost Generation piece

Please note that I have great respect for Jonathan Charles, and I am not making fun of him in any way by sharing this clip. Many thanks to Rubber Republic for sharing the link.

welcome suprises

[image from improv everywhere]

this makes me smile. nice surprises are always welcome!

it feels like the sort of thing ben & jerry’s or innocent smoothies could do too.

more at improv everywhere | seen at notcot

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